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March 21, 2023

Syrian rebels reject new demands as ceasefire nears

Pope Benedict called Sunday for an end to bloodshed in Syria and a commitment to dialogue to end violence.

Rebels in Syria have rejected a last-minute demand by the government, made just 48 hours ahead of a proposed ceasefire which now looks set to fail, the BBC informs. The government on Sunday called for written guarantees from rebel fighters to end attacks and a promise from foreign states not to fund them. The Free Syrian Army said it backed the UN-Arab League truce, but refused to meet the government’s demands.Activists said nearly 70 people were killed on Sunday, bringing the weekend death toll over the weekend to at least 180, most of them civilians.On Monday, Turkey said a Turkish translator and two Syrian nationals were wounded overnight at the Kilis refugee camp by shots fired from the Syrian side of the border. Also on Monday Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was visiting Russia for what may now be crucial talks on the crisis.Syria’s opposition says the new demands are a ploy by President Bashar al-Assad to derail the peace plan mediated by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said: “Syria has a plan for military pullback already in place and being implemented, but completing and achieving the main goal would definitely require the guarantees from the other side and those supporting them.”Meanwhile, Mr Annan called the recent escalation of violence “unacceptable” and appealed to the Syrian government to abide by its commitments. Pope Benedict called Sunday for an end to bloodshed in Syria and a commitment to dialogue to end violence there, Voice of America informs. In his annual Easter message, the pope told a crowd of around 100,000 people crammed into Saint Peter’s square that particularly in Syria, there should be an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation. The pontiff also denounced terrorist attacks in Nigeria and prayed for peace in coup-struck Mali. The Pontiff has said that mankind is shrouded in darkness and unable to distinguish good from evil.

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