02/19/2014, 00.00
SYRIA
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Syrian rebels ready for spring offensive against Damascus

Government and opposition are preparing for a military showdown in Daraa province, the gateway to the capital. Thousands of fighters trained in Jordan by Western forces are said to be getting ready. Ban Ki-moon calls on all parties to return to the peace table for talks.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In southern Syria, rebels are planning a "spring offensive" against Damascus, this according to government and opposition sources.

Fresh rebel troops are coming in from Jordan after being trained by Western powers. The Syrian army, meanwhile, is redeploying troops in Quneitra province located on the ceasefire line with Israel, to stop any rebel advance in Daraa province.

For his part, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that only talks in Geneva could bring peace to the country. With this in mind, he called on all parties to return to the negotiating table after the failure of second round of meetings.

As thousands of US-trained rebels make their way into the area, fears are growing.

Abdullah al-Qarazi, an ex-officer in the Syrian army, made it clear that the offensive will take place.

"Daraa (province) is the gateway to Damascus. The battle for Damascus starts from here," al-Qarazi said.

"For now, we only have guarantees (for weapons) from the countries that support" the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, he said.

"If the promises are honoured, God willing we will reach the heart of the capital," he added.

Since the summer of 2013, rebels have controlled Daraa and strategic positions near the Jordanian border, which can be used as a conduit for arms.

They also set up a coalition of 47 factions and opened communications channels with fighters in Damascus province and in Quneitra, the main town in the Syrian Golan Heights.

But the army is standing idle. According to a government official, everything is ready for a battle in Daraa.

Despite the winds of war, the United Nations is still hopeful. Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, made it clear that the UN leader "remains convinced that Geneva II is the way to go."

The UN chief is calling on "the parties to think long and hard and to come back as soon as possible so that this process can continue," Nesirky noted.

"This is a process, not a single event taking place in one or two meetings," he added, and this is something that "is going to take a long time."

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