Concern: Assad’s Gains could Stall Peace Talks

West worries that Syrian rebels won’t come to the table after Assad makes gains near Damascus.

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Maayana Miskin,

Syrian supporters of the Al-Nusra group
Syrian supporters of the Al-Nusra group
AFP photo

The Syrian army has made gains against rebel troops in recent weeks, leading Western countries to fear for the fate of planned peace talks.

Syrian President Bashar Assad and the leaders of various rebel movements were to have met by the end of 2013 to discuss a truce.

However, analysts have warned that rebels are unlikely to want to negotiate with Assad while they are in a militarily weak position, the Washington Post reports. While rebel leaders have agreed to attend the proposed talks, they have outlined a series of preconditions, among them that Assad play no role in the Syrian government.

Assad has made gains in the Damascus region, regaining control of five towns in just ten days. His troops have also won recent battles near Homs.

A few weeks ago it was reported that Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Assad, was enlisting thousands of fighters for what it was calling “the battle for Damascus.”

Rebel forces suffered an additional blow with the injury of Abdul Qader Saleh, the head of the Tawhid rebel forces, and the death of one of his top assistants.

Assad has suffered some recent losses as well. Rebel movements say they have won ground in the Aleppo region. In addition, a senior Hezbollah commander recently died in fighting.