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Syrian Rebels Reject Ceasefire, Talks

Free Syrian Army head rejects participation in 'Geneva 2' conference; French FM says Assad, jihadis not invited.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 11/26/2013, 8:48 PM

Syrian rebels carry wounded fighter in Aleppo, Sept. 21
Syrian rebels carry wounded fighter in Aleppo, Sept. 21
Reuters

The head of the Free Syrian Army has rejected the notion of a ceasefire during upcoming peace talks in Geneva. 

FSA General Salim Idriss said his rebel faction would not take part in the "Geneva 2" conference, and declared that they would continue their efforts to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad by force.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Idriss asserted that "conditions are not suitable for running the Geneva II talks at the given date and we, as a military and revolutionary force, will not participate in the conference."

Diplomats had suggested a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the talks, but Idriss claimed government forces would simply use talks and the accompanying ceasefire to buy time.

"We will not stop combat at all during the Geneva conference or after it, and what concerns us is getting needed  weapons for our fighters," he added.

Idriss also insisted that  "influential and significant figures from inside Syrian territory" be included in any future talks. Those comments reflect the perception, widely held by rebel groups on the ground in Syria, that the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) which is due to represent the Syrian opposition at the talks, is unrepresentative and detached from the realities on the ground.

The Free Syrian Army, once the primary umbrella for armed rebel factions fighting to topple the Assad regime, has seen its own role eclipsed by a number of Islamist alliances, such as the recently-formed Islamic Front.

FSA officials have repeatedly lamented the lack of direct support to them from western states, warning that Islamist powers - such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar - as well as private sponsors, were moving in to fill the void. Their influence, they say, is largely to blame for the increasingly Islamist flavor of the wider rebel movement.

Meanwhile French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared that neither Assad nor more radical rebel factions will be invited to the peace talks.

"The purpose of Geneva-2 is not to have an armchair discussion about Syria, it’s to have mutual agreement between regime representatives - without Assad - and the moderate opposition in order to form a transitional government,” he told French radio.

"It’s very difficult, but it’s the only solution that allows us at once not to have Mr. Bashar al-Assad and not to have the terrorists," he said, according to Al Arabiya.

The news comes amid continued fighting in and around Syria's capital Damascus, and second city Aleppo.

Rebel units on Tuesday reported a number of modest gains, but have been struggling to defend their positions against a concerted onslaught by pro-regime forces consisting of Syrian army units and Shia militias. Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah in particular is said to have provided "hundreds" of troops for the offensive, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Earlier Tuesday, a suicide bomber killed 15 people and injured more than 30 at a bus stop in the capital Damascus. The apparent suicide car bomb attack targeted the neighborhood of Somariyeh, according to the Observatory. 

Speaking to AFP, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman described the district as "a complex housing families of soldiers fighting with the elite Fourth Division" commanded by the Syrian president's feared brother Maher al-Assad.

It came after mortar fire killed six people elsewhere in the capital, he added.

Nine of the dead were civilians, including two children, and the remaining six were soldiers.