US urges militants groups in Syria to respect truce

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Special Envoy for Michael Ratney

The US Special Envoy for Syria has urged militants groups to observe a tenuous nationwide ceasefire after they gave its brokers 2 days to stop a government offensive near the capital Damascus.
“We recognise that the CoH (Cessation of Hostilities) is under severe stress, but believe that to abandon it now would be strategic error,” Michael Ratney said in a statement posted late Monday on Twitter.
“If the armed factions abandoned the CoH, Assad and his supporters would claim this gives them licence to attack all the opposition forces without international objection,” he warned.
“Please know that we share your concerns and have raised them directly today with senior Russian officials,” Ratney said. “We urge all armed factions to continue to submit violation reports to the United Nations,” he added.
On Sunday, 29 militant groups set the deadline for the US and Russian sponsors of the February 27 truce to halt an offensive by President Bashar al-Assad’s government around Damascus.
Backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, Syria’s army on Thursday recaptured the town of Deir al-Asafir and nine nearby villages in the south of Eastern Ghouta after a fierce battle.
It could pave the way for further government advances in the region that has long been held by a number of terrorist groups.
Abdulrahman said Hezbollah fighters played a key role in the assault which took place near to where the group’s top military commander in Syria was recently killed in a Takfiri shellfire.
Meanwhile, Syrian army troops have repelled a counterattack by al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front militants in the Hama province.
Last week, top diplomats from 17 nations resumed Vienna talks on the Syria conflict, hoping to reinvigorate a peace effort that has effectively collapsed.
Syria has been gripped by militancy since March 2011. Damascus says Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are funding and arming anti-Syria terrorist groups, including Daesh terrorists.
UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has also displaced over half of the Arab country’s pre-war population of about 23 million.

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