News / Middle East

    UN Envoy: Syria, Some Rebels Agree to Holiday Truce

    Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, behind podium at Arab League headquaraters in Cairo Oct. 24, 2012. Seen in the background from left are former president of Ireland Mary Robinson (R) and former US president Jimmy Carter (2nd L)
    Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, behind podium at Arab League headquaraters in Cairo Oct. 24, 2012. Seen in the background from left are former president of Ireland Mary Robinson (R) and former US president Jimmy Carter (2nd L)
    Edward YeranianJessica Golloher
    International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says the Syrian government and some rebel groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad have agreed to a cease-fire during the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins Thursday evening.
     
    Brahimi made the cease-fire announcement in Cairo surrounded by retired world leaders and diplomats, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. The envoy appeared to weigh his words carefully, giving an encouraging outlook to an otherwise bleak situation.
     
    The former Algerian diplomat and veteran negotiator said that small steps would be made to build on the cease-fire if it succeeds.
     
    Later Wednesday, during a video briefing to the United Nations Security Council, Brahimi asked for strong council support, saying another failure of a truce attempt would lead to a worsening regionalization of the conflict.
     
    Before the briefing, ambassadors from four of the council's permanent members, China, Russia, Britain and France, voiced support for the truce. Russia's Vitaly Churkin said he hopes it holds, but he added making that happen is very hard. The U.S. envoy, Susan Rice, did not stop to talk to reporters.
     
    Brahimi has visited a number of Middle Eastern countries during the past several weeks in order to broker a truce.
     
    Government decision due
     
    Syrian government TV reported that Damascus would make a final decision Thursday on whether to respect a cease-fire.
     
    The Syrian government announced several days ago that it would release prisoners who are “not terrorists,” in honor of the holiday.
     
    Rebel Free Syrian Army commander Malek Kurdi told Arab satellite channels that his men would “observe the cease-fire, if the government does.”  He said, however, that the government “must release prisoners [as it has promised],” or the cease-fire will “fall apart.”
     
    Hardline Syrian opposition leader Haithem Maleh said that rebel forces “are on the offensive, while the government is on the defensive,” so it is “important the government does not try to use the cease-fire to strengthen its position on the ground.”
     
    Analysts doubt
     
    Analyst Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group says that many attempts have been made before to arrange a cease-fire, but that none has worked out.
     
    "Within the context of this crisis, virtually every kind of possible cease-fire has already been attempted," Harling said. "None of these concepts have worked out, given the fact that we're still in a conflict which is escalating gradually and in which both sides are convinced that they can win this militarily, although it will take time."
     
    Harling added that a “significant change in the dynamics of the conflict must take place” for a cease-fire to work. He said a “huge amount of details” are required, so as to “contain breaches that can and will occur.”
     
    Former U.N. spokesman Timor Goksel, who now teaches at the American University of Beirut, warns that a key hurdle in working out a cease-fire in Syria revolves around the decentralized command structure of the rebel fighters.
     
    Goksel said that during his lengthy experience of Lebanon's civil war, cease-fires tend to unravel quickly. But he said they are very important for ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire.
     
    "For the people in the street, something like this is fantastic, to put their lives in order, at least for three, four days and......but I'm not really sure about the parties involved," he said. "I don't know who makes their decisions for them. Really, it's very hard to say."
     
    Russian claims
     
    Meanwhile, Russia's top general says Syrian rebels have acquired portable surface-to-air missiles, including a model made in the United States.

    Story continues below 
    • A crowd gathers in front of damaged buildings after a car bomb exploded at Daf al-Shok district, in Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
    • A crowd gathers in front of damaged buildings after a car bomb exploded at Daf al-Shok district, in Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
    • Demonstrators hold opposition flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, after Eid al-Adha prayers, Dara, Syria, October 26, 2012.
    • Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) chats with people after prayers for Eid al-Adha at al-Afram Mosque, Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012.
    • Members of the Free Syrian Army watch for snipers during fighting against pro-government forces in Harem, Idlib, Syria, October 25, 2012.
    • Smoke is seen after pro-government forces shelled the outskirts of Atareb, in Idlib governorate, Syria, October 24, 2012.
    • A member of the Free Syrian Army stands guard during a shelling by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Atareb, in Idlib governorate, Syria, October 24, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter smokes a cigarette as he guards his position in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
    • Residents are seen near damaged buildings at Marat al-Numan, near the northern province of Idlib, Syria, October 23, 2012.
    • Children play on swings in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
    • Turkish boys look through a shattered window after an anti-aircraft shell fired from Syria hit a health center across the border in Reyhanli, Hatay province, Turkey, October 23, 2012.
    • A building that anti-government sources said was destroyed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces is seen in Saqba, Damascus, Syria, October 22, 2012.
    Interfax news agency quotes General Nikolai Marakov as saying "that militants fighting Syrian government forces have portable missile launchers of various states, including American-made Stingers.”
     
    He did not make any direct accusation of how the rebels acquired the weapons.
     
    The U.S. Defense Department had no immediate comment. In the past, the U.S. government has denied supplying Syrian rebels with weapons or having any information that American-made weapons are in the hands of rebel forces.
     
    Marakov’s comments were part of a back and forth between Moscow and Washington regarding the conflict in Syria.
     
    Russia has blocked three attempts in the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions against its long-time ally, saying dialogue with both the opposition and the Syrian government is necessary for peace.
     
    Yeranian reported from Cairo and Golloher from Moscow.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Michael from: USA
    October 24, 2012 9:37 AM
    A cease-fire in Syria is a great mandate that could be built upon by later efforts toward peace

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora