March 27, 2018 / 2:51 PM / a month ago

Syrian rebel group says awaiting Russian answer on Douma proposals

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Syrian rebel group holed up in the besieged eastern Ghouta town of Douma said on Tuesday that Russia had yet to give its answer to proposals that involve insurgents and civilians staying in the area.

In the face of defeat, rebel groups in other parts of eastern Ghouta have agreed to be moved to Idlib province in northwestern Syria. Douma, held by the Jaish al-Islam group, is the last remaining rebel-held part of eastern Ghouta.

“The Russians have not presented a decision on what the negotiations committee presented to them,” Jaish al-Islam’s military spokesman Hamza Birqdar said in a text message to Reuters from Douma, adding that a meeting was expected on Wednesday.

He accused the Syrian government and its Russian ally of seeking to impose demographic changes on the area by forcing out its people.

“We have presented our decision to stay. This is not only a decision by Jaish al-Islam, but by all the revolutionary institutions and figures in Douma,” Birqdar said.

Thousands of people - rebel fighters and their families - have left other parts of eastern Ghouta since Thursday under the terms of withdrawal agreements brokered by Russia.

Reporting by Tom Perry; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Gareth Jones

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