Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has announced that it is prepared to abide by a “temporary truce” in Homs and Rif Dimashq with Assad forces during Eid Al-Adha in order to facilitate humanitarian access to the two governorates.
However the FSA rejected a prolonged 9-month ceasefire with the Assad regime in order to allow the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to carry out its operations overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, FSA media and political coordinator Louay Miqdad said: “We refuse to discuss a 9-month ceasefire agreement to facilitate the work of the OPCW…as this request is unreasonable.”
However he added that the “Eid Al-Ahda truce” that had been called for by the Arab League “can be discussed.”
Both the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on Syrian government forces to declare a ceasefire during the Islamic Eid Al-Adha holiday which takes place next week. The Gulf Cooperation Council issued a similar call, asking the Assad government to arrange a ceasefire out of respect for the sanctity of the Hajj pilgrimage, which concludes with the Eid Al-Adha celebrations.
Miqdad told Asharq Al-Awsat that he would take the ceasefire request to the FSA battalion leadership, adding that “they may take different things into account.”
The FSA media coordinator affirmed that the rebel forces are open to humanitarian aid reaching those in need in the Homs and Rif Dimashq provinces where fighting between troops loyal to the Assad government and the FSA continues to rage.
“Those who are besieged [in Rif Dimashq and Homs] are our families, and we are prepared to cooperate to secure the arrival of humanitarian aid, protecting the areas and roads that the convoys will need to pass through during the ceasefire. We pledge to protect the convoys and their crews,” Miqdad said.
As for calls for a prolonged 9-month ceasefire to allow the OPCS to carry out its operation in Syria safely, Miqdad said: “We have nothing to do with this request because we are in a state of self-defense; this request should go to the Syrian regime.”
Miqdad added: “We are fighting to overthrow the regime, and protect civilians. There are no chemical weapons stores in the areas that are under our control, which is something that the Assad regime itself acknowledges, while these storehouses are also not located on the front, so why should we stop fighting? On what basis has this ceasefire request been made?”
“A comprehensive and complete ceasefire will only take place after the regime is toppled, and this must include the departure of Assad,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
In other news, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri urged Jihadist forces in Syria to unite, he said that fighters must “rise above organizational loyalties and party partisanship” and unite behind the goal of setting up an Islamic state.
Two Al-Qaeda-linked groups have emerged in Syria following the civil war, the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS). Both are loyal to Al-Zawahiri.