Two rival Syrian rebel groups on Friday agreed to a cease-fire, as comments by a top government official stirred speculation that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime plans to rally for a peace agreement at talks in Geneva.
The proposed Geneva summit, focused on the long-running conflict in Syria that has left some 120,000 people dead, has been postponed indefinitely.
In an exclusive interview, Syrian deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil was quoted as telling The Guardian that if the talks were revived, the regime would demand a ceasefire because no side is strong enough to win.
“Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side,” Jamil is reported to have told the paper, adding: “This zero balance of forces will not change for a while.”
Jamil, whose own party had joined the March anti-government demonstrations, said he was speaking for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
However, Jamil’s People’s Will Party on Friday contested the report, saying that he had been misquoted and his comments construed in a ”neither precise nor professional” manner,according to BBC News.
Also Friday, the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS), an Al Qaeda offshoot that has moved into Syria’s north seeking to establish a pan-Islamic empire, agreed to a ceasefire with a brigade loyal to the rebel Free Syria Army in the town of Azaz, reported Agence-France-Presse.
Residents said Wednesday that ISIS had seized control of the northern town from the much larger FSA, which has the backing of several Western countries, including the United States.
Turmoil has been on the rise in the area near Syria’s northern border with Turkey, with several car bomb attacks in recent weeks raising fears of further violence.
The conflict in Syria dates back to a non-violent anti-government movement in March 2011. The regime’s crackdown on the protests gave rise to an armed rebellion, sparking a brutal conflict that has the US demanding foreign military intervention.