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SYRIAN PEACE PROCESS STRUGGLES AS REBELS SUSPEND TALKS

DAMASCUS, Syria, Several rebel groups announced that, they were freezing talks on planned negotiations with the Syrian government, casting a shadow over the struggling peace process of the war-torn Middle Eastern country.

In a joint statement issued on Monday evening, the rebels said, they were freezing talks on the peace negotiations, in response to what it called "major violations" by the government forces, in a four-day long ceasefire.

"Due to the worsening situation and the continuation of the breaches, the (rebel) factions declare freezing any talks related to the Astana negotiations...until the full implementation of the ceasefire deal," said the statement.

The truce was brokered by Russia and Turkey and agreed upon by the Syrian government and major opposition and rebel groups, while terrorist organisations, such as the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and the Daesh, were excluded.

The ceasefire went into force at midnight Friday, with opposition activists saying it was still holding on Monday, despite the "breaches."

The talks between the government and rebels are due to take place in the Kazakh capital of Astana in late Jan before the rebels' latest statement.

The rebels claimed that the government forces repeatedly breached the truce, including the escalation of military offensives on the rebel-held town of Wadi Barada in north-western Damascus, and Rastan area in the central province of Homs.

However, for the government forces, Wadi Barada is controlled by the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, previously known as the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

The government refused to acknowledge its attacks as breaches to the ceasefire, saying, it's fighting the Nusra Front and the Daesh group, which were excluded from the ceasefire and have both been declared as terrorist organisations by the United Nations (UN).

Moreover, the rebels in Wadi Barada have cut off the main water supply line to Damascus since Dec 22, leaving the government with few options to restore the water source in that area, which feeds the capital's over five million inhabitants.

The UN said at least four million people in Damascus have been without water since then.

A report said around 1,000 women and children fled the area over the weekend.

The recent ceasefire is the third in Syria after two previous failing ones. The first was reached last Feb, which lasted for three months before collapsing, and the second one was established in Sept, which was observed for only a week.

The ceasefire deal, and the plan for peace talks, received the unanimous backing of the UN Security Council.

Wu Haitao, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN, said, the unanimous adoption of the resolution reflects the support of the UN and the international community, for a comprehensive ceasefire in Syria and a political settlement of the Syrian issue.

Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem, said in an interview last week that, the new ceasefire is more promising than its predecessors, as the Russian guarantees were stronger.

"We trust the Russian guarantor," he said, adding that, the new ceasefire constitutes a chance for establishing a political solution and bring the bloodletting to a curb in Syria.

The nearly six-year-old civil war in Syria has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced nearly 11 million others.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK