Foreign-sponsored Syrian rebels holding 21 UN peacekeepers near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in southern Syria said on Friday no talks were under way to free the men and gave no indication that they would be released soon, Reuters reported.
The men are part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has been monitoring a ceasefire line between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights since 1974.
“There are no negotiations between any parties,” said Abu Essam Taseel, from the media office of the “Martyrs of Yarmouk” brigade that captured the Filipino peacekeepers on Wednesday.
In several videos released on Thursday, the peacekeepers said they were being treated well in the village of Jamla by the rebels fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The United Nations said the captives had been detained by around 30 rebel fighters, but Taseel said the men were “guests”, not hostages, and were being held for their own safety.
However, he said they would only be released once Assad's forces retreated from around Jamla and halted bombing there.
“Negotiations should be between (the United Nations) and the regime of Bashar al-Assad to stop the bombing and lift the blockade of the area so it can be safe,” Taseel said.
The Damascus government has not commented publicly about the incident.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had been approached by the Syrian opposition and was prepared to play a role in “receiving” the peacekeepers once they are released, but would not get involved in actual negotiations.
The ICRC was ready “to play the role of neutral intermediary in the framework of the kidnapping of the UNDOF soldiers provided that this is agreeable to all the parties concerned,” ICRC spokeswoman Dibeh Fakhr told Reuters in Geneva.
Taseel said the UN observers had a responsibility to keep heavy weapons out of the area.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence while the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings.
Western states have been calling for Assad to step down. However, Russia and China are strongly opposed to the Western drive to oust Assad.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the armed militants are foreign nationals, mostly from Egypt, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia.
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