The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is on his way to Syria’s capital, Damascus, where he will hold talks with Syrian leaders about a proposal to call a cease-fire between government troops and rebel fighters. Brahimi has said he hopes the cease-fire will start next week, for the Eid al Adha holiday.
The spokesman for the Syrian ministry of foreign affairs, Jihad Makdissi, said the Syrian government would be willing to consider a cease fire. But in an interview posted on Twitter by Zain Benjamin, of the U.S.-backed Radio Sawa, Makidissi said more than one “side” should be involved in any agreement.
Makdissi later clarified his statements on a website called Baghdad Channel TV, calling on Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to use their influence to convince the armed rebels within Syria to adhere to the cease fire. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have sent light arms to several rebel groups, via Turkey, over the past several months.
The Syrian state run newspaper, Al Thawra, expressed concern that no one knows who speaks on behalf of the Syrian rebels.
“There is the state, represented by the government and the army on one front, but who is on the other front?” the newspaper asked in an editorial.
It’s a valid question. Rebel groups numbering in the hundreds perhaps thousands inside Syria themselves say they don’t answer to a single leadership, especially not those based in the “officers camp” in Turkey.
One of those Turkey-based leaders, Riyad al Assad, the nominal figurehead of the so-called Free Syrian Army, issued a statement saying the rebels will not adhere to a cease-fire. He says there should instead be a permanent end to the violence and the aerial bombardment on civilian areas.
Reuters reported today that rebels are preparing to announce that they have unified under new leadership, but previous plans to do so have not materialized.
(Kelly McEvers is an NPR foreign correspondent based in Beirut.)