Assad Promises Full Amnesty to Rebels; “Just Give up Your Armament”

Assad Promises Full Amnesty to Rebels; “Just Give up Your Armament”
Wed Mar 2, 2016 11:27:25

Syrian President Bashar Assad is promising a “full amnesty” to rebels who lay down their arms as efforts continue to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Assad said the truce provided a “glimmer of hope” for Syria, where more than 270,000 people have been killed since the complex conflict erupted five years ago, according to UN figures.

Asked in an interview yesterday what a “moderate” rebel could do to be accepted by him as a Syrian civilian again, he said: “Just give up your armament”.

He added that the most important thing for him is that citizens don't carry around machine guns.
'This is the only thing that we ask,' he said. 'We don't ask for anything. As I said, we give them full amnesty.

'Whether you want to join the political process or not interested about the political process.'

His comments came after a series of artillery shells exploded near the main street of a Syrian village close to the border with Turkey yesterday, sending a group of visiting international reporters running for cover and underscoring the limits of Syria's partial ceasefire.

The journalists were visiting the government-controlled village of Kinsibba, in the coastal province of Latakia, on a trip organized by Russia's defence and foreign ministries.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov, who was on the trip, said the projectiles came from positions held by the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, which is excluded from the Russian and U.S.-brokered ceasefire, along with ISIS.

The journalists were traveling in armored trucks provided by the Russian military, and were escorted by Russian special forces.

Reporters were walking across the village, which was seized in a recent government offensive, and talking to locals when the first shell struck a hillside a few hundred metres away.

Russian officers yelled at journalists to lie down, and they ducked as more shells fell and landed closer to the group. A Russian armored personnel carrier rushed forward to screen the reporters from direct hits.

A couple of journalists suffered minor scratches as they ran for cover and were quickly treated by Russian military medics. No other casualties were reported.

Just after the reporters left, more shells landed in the area, killing three Syrian troops and wounding eight others, Konashenkov said.

The partial ceasefire in Syria, which began at midnight on Friday, has brought a notable reduction in hostilities for the first time in the five-year war that has displaced half of Syria's population, Mail online reports.

Russia's defence ministry said last night the ceasefire has been violated 15 times in the past 24 hours.

World powers have thrown their weight behind the landmark truce as a way to bring an end to Syria's conflict, which began in 2011.

'We will do our part so that the whole thing works,' Assad told German public broadcaster ARD, referring to the cessation of hostilities reached by the U.S and Russia.

'We have refrained ourselves from retaliating in order to give a chance for the agreement to survive. That's what we can do, but at the end everything has a limit. It depends on the other side.'

The much-lauded ceasefire has brought relative calm to swathes of territory in Syria's north, south, and around the capital.

It does not include areas where the so-called “Islamic State” terrorist group and Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, Al-Nusra Front, are present.

The complex patchwork of territorial control has made the truce difficult to monitor, particularly in areas where Al-Nusra Front has formed close ties with rebel groups.

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