January 20, 2017 / 3:36 PM / 2 years ago

Germany says helped broker ceasefire for valley near Damascus

BERLIN (Reuters) - German diplomats helped broker a ceasefire between the Syrian government and rebel forces in a mountainous valley near Damascus, a deal designed to restore water supplies to the capital, the German foreign ministry said on Friday.

The agreement, first reported by German news magazine Der Spiegel, is aimed at giving opponents of the Syrian government an opportunity to withdraw from the Wadi Barada valley to the rebel-held province of Idlib.

It was not immediately clear when the ceasefire was due to take effect, with unconfirmed social media reports citing continued shelling in the area.

Der Spiegel said the agreement called for experts to be allowed to repair a pumping station damaged by the fighting, which would allow water service to Damascus to be restored.

It said the German diplomats got involved at the request of opposition officials, helping broker the ceasefire agreement through their contacts and the exchange of information.

Last week the local governor said that engineers had entered the town where the water station is located to carry out repairs as part of a wider agreement that included the departure of some rebels from Wadi Barada.

But the plan was derailed after armed men killed the head of a negotiation team who was overseeing the agreement and repairs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Wadi Barada, controlled by rebels since 2012, has become a major battlefront in the Syrian war, and the damage to the pumping station has caused severe water shortages in the capital since the beginning of the year.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Sabine Siebold; Editing by Dominic Evans

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