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Syria's leader says ceasefire "does not mean everyone stops using their weapons"

Bashar al-Assad said his troops would continue fighting “terrorists”.

Turkish artillery fire from the border near Kilis toward northern Syria.
Turkish artillery fire from the border near Kilis toward northern Syria.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

SYRIA’S PRESIDENT BASHAR al-Assad poured cold water on an internationally backed plan for a ceasefire to begin later this week, saying it would be “difficult” to implement.

His comments were the first from the embattled leader on the plan put forward by world leaders in Munich last Friday for a so-called “cessation of hostilities” to begin within a week.

“They are saying they want a ceasefire in a week. Who is capable of gathering all the conditions and requirements in a week? No one,” Assad said in televised remarks in Damascus.

“Who will talk to the terrorists? If a terrorist group refuses the ceasefire, who will hold them to account? Practically, talking (about a ceasefire) is difficult,” he said, according to a transcript of his comments published by state news agency SANA.

World powers last week put called for immediate humanitarian access throughout Syria and a ceasefire to begin within a week, which would not include Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front or the Islamic State (IS) group.

But the details of just how the plan would be implemented remain to be worked out, with a UN panel co-chaired by the US and Russia tasked with the job.

Assad said a ceasefire could not mean “that everyone stops using their weapons.”

“This is the narrow sense,” he said.

“A ceasefire must mean stopping terrorists from strengthening their positions. Moving weapons, equipment, terrorists or strengthening positions must all be forbidden,” he added.

MSF

Meanwhile, the United Nations said nearly 50 civilians, including children, died in bombings of at least five medical facilities and two schools in northern Syria’s Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the raids violated international law and “cast a shadow” over efforts to end Syria’s five-year civil war, while France said the attacks “constitute war crimes”.

Medicins Sans Frontieres confirmed a hospital supported by the charity was hit in Idlib, northwest Syria, and said seven people were killed and at least eight were missing, presumed dead.

But Syria’s ambassador to Moscow, Riad Haddad, said the hospital had been targeted by a US raid.

- © AFP, 2016

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