By Joyce Karam and Youssef Khazem
The US welcomed Saturday a 48-hour cease-fire in southwest Syria, cautiously embracing a de-escalation process between the Assad regime and the opposition while “continuing the fight” against Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
“We welcome any initiative to reduce tensions and violence in southern Syria and thereby call on the Syrian regime to live up to its own stated commitments during this cease-fire initiative,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
She was cautious, however, in laying out Washington’s expectations, saying: “We will judge this initiative by the results, not the words.”
Nauert asked the opposition to “halt attacks to allow the cease-fire to endure — and hopefully be extended — and humanitarian aid to reach those in need.”
Meanwhile, Maan Abdulsalam, an opposition activist in south Syria, said: “The cease-fire came as result of a US-Russian decision concerning southwest Syria, which was taken outside Astana talks.”
Speaking to Arab News, Abdulsalam said he believes the “opposition will most probably respect and comply with the cease-fire, as it (the opposition) has lost too much in this region and wants to save lives.”
However, this will not change the opposition’s stance on the Damascus regime, he said.
In another development, Iraqi Joint Operations Command claimed that its forces captured a border crossing point to Syria from Daesh, getting closer to meeting up with Syrian troops and their allies who reached the border earlier this month for the first time in years.
Tribal forces and border police, supported by Iraqi and US-led coalition aircraft, took part in the operation to take Al-Waleed crossing, it said in a statement.
However, Abdulsalam denied the claim and told Arab News that the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), who are fighting alongside Iraqi forces, have not touched the base of the Syrian army. He said the PMF is still 15 km away from the border crossing.
He ruled out any possibility of the PMF arriving at the Syrian border.
He said Russia is behind the military approach to open a route that passes through Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and reaches the Caucasus.
Abdulsalam said “the US policy (over the issue) is unclear and broken, as the current internal politics have impacted the American strategies around the world, including Syria.”
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