02/12/2016, 11.55
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Patriarch Laham: Syria agreement a positive step, now common front against the Islamic State

Gregory III hopes that the agreement "can be beneficial to the country and its people." He urges continued alliance against Daesh and other jihadist groups. And he calls for mediation between "the Syrian government and the real internal opposition." Only foreign mercenay fighters do not want peace. Encounter between Francis and Kirill the hope of a united and fixed Easter.

Damascus (AsiaNews) - The "positive" news” of the agreement on a ceasefire, that "all of us hope will bring benefits to the country and its people" a decision "already contained in the UN resolution 2254", part of the many  attempts at "dialogue that stopped as soon as they started" in Geneva. Now "we hope that these proposals will be put into practice and all work for peace”, says Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham. 

The religious leader expresses his happiness at the latest news and confirms the "importance" of the agreement for the "cessation of hostilities" in Syria within a week reached overnight by the US and Russia, along with 15 other nations. The cessation of military operations decided by the International Support Group for Syria (ISSG) exclude battles against jihadist groups of the Nusra Front and the Islamic State.

Contacted by AsiaNews at the Patriarchal See in Damascus, Gregory III, Syrian, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, explains that it is essential to "keep alive the general alliance against Daesh [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, SI] and others terrorist groups ". Among these there is also the Nusra Front to Front, the local cell of al Qaeda which is very active in the territory. "We have to fight this universal evil - he adds - this 'mystery' of evil, in the words of St. Paul."

The Group also expressed the desire for the immediate resumption of peace talks between the Syrian government and rebels. The dialogue was initiated at the beginning of the month, but almost immediately halted because of the army offensive against the area occupied by rebels in Aleppo.

"To reach a true peace - says Gregory III - the Syrian government and the real internal opposition must meet. The reality is that the opposition is made up of many groups and factions, at least 28, but we must not take terrorist groups into consideration in this varied landscape. They should not be part of the discussions. "

The other "essential" aspect for the Melkite Patriarch is that "aid reaches the entire population living in need." However, he adds, "the militants in many cases do not get aid, but confiscate everything that comes. This has happened for a long time in Yarmouk, where the state wanted to send aid, which were confiscated by the militias".

Gregory III confirmed what was recently reported to Asia News by the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo of the Latins, Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen, that the Syrians do not want war any more, but "instead foreigners are fomenting it."

There are  bands of mercenaries operating in Syria, jihadists, extremists and common criminals who see the conflict as a source of livelihood.

 "The country has become a market - explains the patriarch Melkite - and the fighters actfor money, material gain, and this is one reason for the large presence of foreigners."

Recalling the words of Pope Francis, he confirmed "today once again we should not allow the flame of hope to go out. We Christians nourish this hope - he added - and we pray that the great powers bring peace, which is a gift of God. We wait for the miracle and in this time of Lent all of Damascus’ churches are full of people, simple people praying for the end of the conflict ... that these prayers can really make a miracle. "

Finally, Gregory III welcomes and expresses his hopes ahead of today's meeting between Francis and the Patriarch Kirill. "On the 18th of the month, during the visit of the President of the Polish Bishops' Conference, we organized an ecumenical prayer. A peace meeting that all Christian denominations were invited to. We in Syria, in this time of war, have already initiated a journey of ecumenism; our hope is that the historic meeting today in Cuba may see the decision for a common date for Easter ... that this be a common celebration and fixed in the calendar, overcoming the divisions of the past between the Julian and Gregorian calendars". ( DS)

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