The Syrian regime has begun implementing its agreement to remove thousands of rebels from the Damascus region without firing a single bullet. While the international community is calling it a forced expulsion, the Syrian foreign minister has said that “this is the alternative to peace talks that are not progressing.”

Fighting in Syria | Illustration

Fighting in Syria | Illustration Photo Credit: Reuters/ Channel 2 news

For the first time since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Syrian President Bashar Assad has begun to remove pockets of rebels from Damascus under the auspices of the “evacuation agreements.” This is following a period of isolation and prolonged siege on both the local population and the rebel forces.

As per the terms of the agreements, 1,500 rebels and their families were removed today from the Barza neighborhood. The Kabun neighborhood and other areas nearby are expected to be next. The United Nations has said in response to the expulsion: “Assad is taking advantage of the circumstances in order to make demographic changes.” In other words, from the international community’s point of view, this is not an evacuation but rather a deportation or expulsion.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem:

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem: “This is the alternative to peace talks that are not progressing.” Photo credit: Channel 2 News

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said today that the regime considers evacuation to be the most realistic solution. In the coming days, more rebel neighborhoods in Damascus will be evacuated in a similar format. According to Muallem, the peace talks in Geneva were “not progressing” and the Syrian regime was therefore choosing “evacuation and compensation agreements.” Responding to the international community’s critique, Muallem said that “there is no role for the UN or international forces in reducing violence.” He added that Russia had said it would use its military force as a “supervising agent” in the region.