03/15/2016, 10.24
SYRIA

Vicar of Aleppo: Government and rebels want end of hostilities, water and electricity return to cities

For Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen the partial withdrawal of Russian troops shows that the situation "is stabilizing". The conflict is "quieting", villages and towns are pushing for "peace and reconciliation." According to the prelate there is as lessening of fear and tensions. The situation in Aleppo is beginning to improve, water  and electricity supplies return. Now is the time for peace.

 

Aleppo (AsiaNews) - The withdrawal of Russian troops shows that the situation in Syria "is stabilizing", in many regions, "the conflict has eased," more and more "villages and towns are calling for peace and reconciliation". And the various fighting fronts are moving decisively towards "the end of hostilities”: This is according to the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo of the Latins, Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen.

Speaking to AsiaNews he expresses a "cautious optimism" for the diplomatic efforts under way in Geneva, and confirms the "desire for peace" among the "Syrian people, battered by five years of violence". For the prelate there is a clear desire "for an end to fighting" and the citizens "are asking the armed groups, especially the foreign jihadists, to leave the country" because they are exacerbated by the war.

This morning Russia started the withdrawal of its military from Syria; a move that follows the declaration last night of President Vladimir Putin, that Russian forces have achieved their goals and must now focus on diplomatic efforts. Meanwhile in Geneva negotiations continue between the government in Damascus and the rebels, under the aegis of the United Nations.

The Apostolic Vicar agrees with the statement made by UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, that this is the "moment of truth" and there is no "plan B", because the only alternative to peace talks is a return the conflict in all areas. "He's right - says Msgr. Abou Khazen - people are tired and want peace. A partial, cautious optimism prevails" and there is a widespread awareness that "the time has come to put an end to the violence".

Moreover "the fear and tension" among the civilian population "is beginning to decline," adds the prelate, and everyone looks "to the Geneva talks with the strong hope that they will have positive, concrete results". What is essential "is that the playing field be left to the Syrians", to the various souls of the country, "to reach agreement among themselves, leaving aside the interests of regional and international powers, who have always created confusion and fueled the tension. This is the central point of the question". "The greatest pain for Syria –he  adds - came from these regional and international powers, and if they leave the things will be easier for everyone".

Msgr. George says that "many of the armed groups" involved in the Syrian conflict "have turned away from jihadists, from the Nusra Front and the Islamic State." Only recently, he adds, "42 fighters groups laid down their weapons, breaking their alliance with fundamentalists. That's why this is the moment of truth and even the Syrian government really wants to achieve peace".

Meanwhile, the situation on the ground begins to improve, albeit slowly,  thanks to the ceasefire of recent week which, with some exceptions, on the whole has been held and has prevented many casualties, particularly among civilians. "In Aleppo - says the Apostolic Vicar of the Latins – we have electricity again. Now we can have a few hours a day, after seven months. And after two months, we now have water again, supplies arrive regularly and are also available in regions long under siege. " He points out that "the climate is more relaxed, and we are already seeing an improvement. Ordinary people are beginning to feel better, they no longer live in fear and will do everything so as not to return to the bloodiest " period of the fighting.

"Many Syrian fighters have laid down their arms and returned to civilian life - confirms the prelate - and this is one of the most obvious signs of internal reconciliation. Hundreds from all regions have returned to a civilian life, with the assurance from the government that they will not be persecuted. And still others have decided to join the ranks of the regular army. " That's why, Msgr. Georges concludes, "I repeat once again what I have said many times in the past: simply stop supplying weapons to the jihadist groups, let us speak of peace and continue with the talks and stop trading in weapons “ (DS).

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