AMMAN (Reuters) – The Syrian opposition began negotiations with Russian officers about an agreement to restore state sovereignty over rebel-held parts of the southwestern Deraa province, rebel negotiators said on Saturday.
The government’s offensive this month in southwest Syria has taken much of the eastern part of Deraa province from rebels, backed by a bombardment that the United Nations says has pushed 160,000 people out of their homes.
Insurgent negotiators and a spokesman said a six-member civilian and military committee of the southern rebels held a preliminary meeting along the administrative borders of neighboring Sweida province.
“The committee held its first meeting with Russian officers who presented their demands,” said Ibrahim Jabawi, a spokesman of the central operations room set up by the main Free Syrian Army groups in southern Syria. A second round of talks was expected on Saturday.
The deal being discussed does not include rebel territory in adjacent Quneitra province, bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the spokesman said.
Jordan, which borders Deraa province, has been facilitating talks between rebel factions and Moscow over a deal that would end the violence in exchange for the return of state rule there.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, editing by Larry King