Syria rebels vow to continue fighting if talks fail
Syrian rebels have vowed to continue fighting if talks with the regime in the Kazakh capital Astana fail, a rebel spokesman said on Monday.
"If the negotiations succeed, then we are with the negotiations," rebel spokesman Osama Abu Zeid told AFP.
"If they don't succeed, unfortunately we'll have no choice but to continue fighting."
His comments come as Syrian rebels began peace talks with the war-torn country's government on Monday.
But rebel spokesman Yehya al-Aridi said the opposition backed out of the first round of direct talks because of the regime's continued bombardment and attacks on a flashpoint area near Damascus.
"The first negotiation session will not be face-to-face because the government hasn't committed until now to what it signed in the December 30 agreement," Aridi said, referring to the fragile ceasefire deal brokered by Turkey and Russia.
It was unclear whether the rebels could take part in direct negotiations with the regime at a later session in Astana.
The opening session of the Astana talks could have marked the first time the armed rebel groups engaged in direct negotiations with Assad's regime since the conflict erupted in 2011.
Rebels have said that the talks – organised by regime backers Iran and Russia and rebel ally Turkey – are meant to bolster a frail truce brokered by Moscow and Ankara last month. Assad, whose regime has killed thousands of civilians, insists that rebels lay down their arms in exchange for an amnesty deal.
More than 310,000 people have been killed and more than half of Syria's population displaced since the start of the nearly six-year conflict.