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Executive Summary for March 2nd

We review the key developments in Syria, including Assad’s support for the cease-fire and his accusation of rebel violations, the U.N.’s announcement that it will hold the next round of peace talks on March 9, and Israel’s accusation that government forces have used chemical weapons during the truce.

Published on March 2, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Assad Backs Truce, Accuses Opposition of Breaches

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad described the fragile truce in place since Saturday as a “glimmer of hope,” but accused rebel groups of violating the cessation of hostilities agreement intended to bring an end to nearly five years of violence.

“We will play our part to make the whole thing work,” Assad said in an interview with a German television network.

“The terrorists have breached the deal from the first day. We as the Syrian army are refraining from responding in order to give a chance to sustain the agreement. But in the end there are limits and it all depends on the other side.”

The Syrian opposition, for its part, has accused the government and Russia of at least 49 attacks since the cease-fire took effect, killing at least 29 people.

Assad also offered amnesty to rebel fighters if they agree to hand over their weapons.

“The most important thing for me, legally and constitutionally … (is) that you’re not allowed, as a citizen, to hold machine-guns and hurt people or properties,” he said.

The temporary truce has brought relative calm to large parts of Syria’s north, south and central regions, but in areas around the capital, civilians took advantage of the lull in airstrikes to return to the streets and demonstrate against the Assad government.

Dozens of young men in the besieged rebel-held town of Daraya just outside of Damascus marched through the streets on Tuesday, chanting and carrying signs reading “Daraya will not kneel!”

U.N. Aims to Restart Geneva Talks on March 9

The United Nations will begin the next round of Syria peace talks on March 9, Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Tuesday.

“We are delaying it to the afternoon of the 9th for logistical and technical reasons and also for the cease-fire to better settle down,” de Mistura told Reuters. “I will not delay it further.”

Since the cease-fire took effect on Saturday, the Assad government and the opposition have steadily traded accusations of violations, although the overall level of violence has dramatically declined.

De Mistura had originally planned to reconvene the peace talks in Geneva on March 7, depending on the situation on the ground.

“We don’t want discussions in Geneva to become a discussion about infringements or not of the cease-fire, we want them to actually address the core of everything,” he said.

Member countries of the 17-nation Syria task force hope the lull in fighting will allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged areas and an eventual restart of the peace process.

De Mistura said it was up to the United States and Russia, who brokered the cease-fire agreement, to monitor the truce. This would entail the creation of a common map of battlefield lines and the use of drones and satellites.

Israel Accuses Assad of Using Chemical Weapons During Truce

Israel accused Syrian government forces on Tuesday of having used chemical weapons against civilians since the start of the temporary truce.

“The Syrians used military grade chemical weapons and lately have been using materials, chlorine, against civilians, including in these very days after the supposed cease-fire, dropping barrels of chlorine on civilians,” said Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon.

A 2014 fact-finding mission conducted by the global chemical weapons watchdog (OPCW) concluded that chlorine gas had been used systematically in Syria’s civil war, even after the government’s surrender of its chemical weapons stockpile.

A joint U.N.-OPCW mission is currently investigating the recent chemical attacks.

Recommended Reads

Top image: A man carries an aid package, which he received from the Russian military in the Syrian village of Ghunaymiyah, about 9 miles (15km) from the Turkish border, Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Residents of Ghunaymiyah recently returned to their homes after the government captured the village from al-Nusra Front fighters last month. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

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