A two-day cease-fire that went into force Thursday morning in a Syrian town could be extended for a third day if the negotiations continued, a mediator familiar with the ongoing negotiations told Xinhua.
A fresh two-day truce was reached Wednesday evening in Syria's Zabadani city, near the Lebanese borders, and two Shiite towns in northwestern Syria, Mohammed Abu Qassem, secretary general of Syria's Tadamun (Solidarity) Party, who is a mediator on behalf of fighting groups inside Zabadani, told Xinhua.
He said the truce could extend to a third day if the negotiations continue between an Iranian delegation and the rebels' Ahrar al-Sham Movement for further pacification and civilian evacuation from the aforementioned towns.
He said that delegations from Iran and the rebel's Ahrar al-Sham Movement were holding the last-hour talks in Turkey.
Abu Qassem was part of the previous mediation efforts that took place earlier this month and succeeded to establish a three-day cease-fire in Zabdani, and the two Shiite towns, but the negotiations were later faltered and the truce collapsed.
The Syrian army backed by the Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah has been on a shattering offensive against Sunni-led militants groups, mainly the Ahrar al-Sham Movement, in the city of Zabadani.
In retaliation to the government troops' offensive on Zabadani, several jihadi groups in Idlib mounted an attack against the Shiite towns of Kafraya and Foa, one of the few remaining government strongholds in Idlib.
The rebels in Idlib said they will continue attacking the Shiite towns until government troops halt their offensive on the Sunni-led insurgency in Zabadani, in a sign of how sectarian the Syrian crisis has become.
Syrian officials and local reports said that Turkey and Iran helped broker the first truce in Zabadani, as the Turks voiced the demands of the Ahrar al-Sham movement and the Iranians obviously covered the side of the Syrian government, in unprecedented mediation that reflected a new approach by regional players.
Meanwhile, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV said the negotiations now include the Syrian army approval to allow the trapped rebels inside Zabadani to leave toward the countryside of Idlib province, while the rebels surrounding Kafraya and Foa will allow the old men and sick people of the towns to be evacuated to hospitals in the coastal city of Latakia.
The TV said the truce would automatically extend once the negotiation points and the evacuation of rebels and civilians are approved.
It said the injured civilians from Zabadani and both towns are expected to be evacuated on Friday.
Zabadani is important for the Syrian army because it's the last rebel bastion of Nusra and allied militants beside the Lebanese borders.
The four-year-old Syrian conflict has taken a sectarian turn with increasing Sunni jihadists joining the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad's government, who belongs to the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah joined the battles against the insurgency in Syria to keep radical rebels away from Lebanese border and to protect the Shiite community in Syria, not to mention its main ally: the Syrian administration.