BEIRUT – The Syrian government announced on Wednesday an initial agreement with the armed groups in the Wadi Barada valley, the main freshwater spring that supplies Damascus, in an attempt to resolve the conflict in this area.
The provincial governor of Rif Damascus, Ala Ibrahim – speaking to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) – stated that the initial agreement establishes the withdrawal of all non-local rebels to the northern province of Idlib, while those who remain will have to normalize their legal situation.
Ibrahim added that the arrangement contemplates the rebel surrender of heavy weaponry and allowing the Syrian army to enter the area for de-mining and clearing unexploded ordnance and IEDs.
Upon completion of this last step, according to the governor, an engineering team will be able to access the Ain al-Fiya water spring, the main Barada river tributary that supplies Damascus’ drinking water, to repair the pump station and water supply network damaged during “terrorist attacks.”
Ibrahim pointed out that the next hours will be decisive to ascertain if the agreement holds.
The United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian government was seeking separate deals for each Barada valley village instead of pursuing an overall agreement.
There are 13 villages in the area, 10 controlled by insurgents and three under Syrian government control.
According to the SOHR, insurgent leaders denied any sort of pact.
The Syrian army offensive in the area began 23 days ago and has continued in spite of the Dec. 30 All-Syria ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey.
Due to the intense fighting, the Wadi Barada valley water supply to Damascus has been cut off and both Damascus and the insurgents are blaming each other.