DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian government has agreed "in principle" to the U.N. envoy's call for local cease-fires to try to ease the worst fighting in the country's civil war but needs more details before it can make a final decision, a Syrian official said Monday.
The comments from Minister of National Reconciliation, Ali Haidar, come a week after United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura formally presented his idea to President Bashar Assad, who said it was "worth studying." The proposal envisions freezing fighting in certain areas to allow for humanitarian aid as part of a push toward a wider peace in the 3 1/2-year conflict, which has killed more than 200,000.
"De Mistura came to us with a headline, not with any comprehensive proposal," Haidar told The Associated Press. "He came to test the Syrian government's intentions and he heard very good words ... confirming that Syria wants serious cooperation."
Haidar said the U.N. envoy needs to sort out the details, the most important of which for the Syrian government is that halting fighting in any community "should be the start of a process of local reconciliation."
"Freezing should be an introduction to cleaning this area of armed groups and weapons and their exit from this area to turn it into a safe zone in a way that allows the government to bring in humanitarian aid and services to this area," he said.
Haidar also said de Mistura "has to make sure that the armed groups on the ground and their backers are ready to accept this initiative."
Syria's intractable conflict has so far defied several international efforts to resolve it. While the rise of the Islamic State group has given greater urgency to finding some sort of solution, reaching even small-scale truces in the fragmented country of multiple, divided fighting forces could be a near impossible task.
Opposition activists, meanwhile, say local truces would only help the government unless they were part of a comprehensive political solution to the civil war.