Syrian Rebels Reject 'Humiliating' Russian Demand to Surrender as Peace Talks Fail

Rebels met with Russian officers as government offensive in southwest continues to rage

Smoke rises above opposition held areas of Daraa during airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on June 26, 2018
MOHAMAD ABAZEED/AFP

Syrian rebels meeting Russian officers in a southern Syrian town on Saturday said negotiations for a peace deal with the government ended in failure after they rejected Moscow's demands to surrender, their spokesman said. 

"The meeting ended in failure. The Russians were not ready to listen to our demands. They offered one option, to accept their humiliating demand to surrender, which was rejected," Ibrahim Jabawi, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army. 

Al-Jazeera meanwhile quoted sources as saying that negotiations continued with local leaders in some villages in Daraa province.  

The Syrian opposition earlier held negotiations with Russian officers about an agreement to restore state sovereignty over rebel-held parts of the southwestern Deraa province. The government's offensive this month in southwest Syria has taken much of the eastern part of Deraa province from rebels, backed by a bombardment that the United Nations says has pushed 160,000 people out of their homes

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Insurgent negotiators and a spokesman said a six-member civilian and military committee of the southern rebels held a preliminary meeting along the administrative borders of neighboring Sweida province.

"The committee held its first meeting with Russian officers who presented their demands," said Ibrahim Jabawi, a spokesman of the central operations room set up by the main Free Syrian Army groups in southern Syria. A second round of talks was expected on Saturday.

The deal being discussed does not include rebel territory in adjacent Quneitra province, bordering the Israeli-held Golan Heights, the spokesman said.

Jordan, which borders Deraa province, has been facilitating talks between rebel factions and Moscow over a deal that would end the violence in exchange for the return of state rule there. 

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Syrian troops have seized a swathe of rebel territory northeast of Deraa city. State TV broadcast scenes of what they said were locals celebrating the army's arrival in the formerly rebel-held town of Ibta and said rebels turned in their weapons.

A series of offensives and local deals - accept state rule or leave - has helped Damascus suppress insurgent bastions across western Syria. 
"Most of the (people in) the eastern villages have fled to west Deraa and to Quneitra," said Abu Shaima, a Free Syrian Army rebel spokesman. Another rebel official said some towns were trying to negotiate deals with the state on their own. "There was a collapse in the eastern front yesterday," he added. "The front in Deraa city is steadfast."