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Syria rebels in south announce return to talks with Russia

Syria rebels in south announce return to talks with Russia

Ayman Safadi, Jordan's foreign minister, said in a tweet on Friday that the return of the tens of thousands of displaced Syrians in southern Syria is the kingdom's top priority and he had discussed "practical guarantees" with concerned parties.

Syrian government forces on Friday reached a vital border crossing with Jordan and raised the national flag for the first time in years, state media reported, reinstating sovereignty over a key region that potentially reopens the way for Syrian exports to Arab countries.

The de-escalation zone in the southwest was agreed by Russia, Jordan and the U.S. in June 2017.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

The crossing, a key trade route, was held by opposition groups almost for three years. The presence of Turkish and US forces in those areas will complicate further gains.

As Assad seeks victory, there seems little hope of a negotiated peace, with six million Syrian refugees overseas and 6.5 million more internally displaced.

Russian Federation has been at the forefront of the Deraa campaign, both bombing and negotiating with rebels who were told at the start of the offensive to expect no help from the United States.

The military's next target in the southern offensive appears to be parts of the nearby Quneitra province that are in rebel hands at the Golan frontier.

"The Russians have not stopped the bombardment", Bashar al-Zoubi, a prominent rebel leader in southern Syria, told Reuters in a text message from the Deraa area, the focus of the government offensive.

The capture of the Naseeb border crossing is another victory for President Bashar Assad's forces, who have regained control of most of the country's key cities from insurgents in recent years with the help of powerful allies Russian Federation and Iran.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not allow Iran to establish a foothold in Syria and has conducted numerous air raids over the past year targeting Iranian assets in Syria.

The area has faced intense air strikes from Russian and government forces in recent weeks.

In addition to ending the Syrian military offensive the deal also calls for the gradual withdrawal of Syrian Army forces from the towns they've taken, to be replaced by local forces who are overseen by Russian Federation.

An official said Jordan is favourable to a Russian military police presence on parts of the border to help exclude Iranian-backed militias that have been supporting Assad's forces and which are seen as a menace by Amman.

Rebels captured the Nassib border point in April 2015, closing off one of the Syrian government's most vibrant trade routes.

Most of the hospitals had shut down amid the destruction in insurgent territory, which now barely had access to water or electricity, he said.

An agreement reached Friday may offer a glimmer of hope in a fast-deteriorating situation in southwestern Syria, where at least 330,000 people - half of them children - have fled their homes in the face of a fierce regime offensive.

USA -backed and Kurdish-led forces seized the town from the Islamic State group in 2016, but Turkey views the Kurdish fighters as terrorists due to their links to insurgents across the border and has demanded they withdraw.


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