Syrians fill up their jerrycans with water from a street water tanker in Damascus, capital of Syria, on Jan. 12, 2017. Damascenes have been struggling to secure their needs of drinking water since Dec. 23, 2016 as the main water supply in Barada Valley northwest of Damascus have been cut off due to the intensity of battles between the rebels and the government forces over the area. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)
DAMASCUS, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- The water crisis in the capital Damascus is drawing to an end, as negotiations between rebels, government succeeded to allow government to re-run main water spring feeding the capital on Friday.
Earlier on Friday, maintenance workers reached the Ain Fijeh spring in the Barada Valley area northwest of Damascus, ending weeks of relentless battles in that region, which intensified since the water pumping into the capital was severed on Dec. 22.
Ain Fijeh is the main water source feeding Damascus with water, and since the water production was shut off, over five million inhabitants in Damascus have struggled to secure their needs of drinking water.
Last week, the UN has warned that the water crisis afflicting the Syrian capital may constitute a war crime.
"In Damascus itself, 5.5 million people have had their water supplies cut or minimized," the UN's humanitarian adviser to Syria, Jan Egeland, said.
Restoring water to Damascus has been the government priority ever since.
The government accused the rebels of severing the water pumping to the capital, while the latter said it's the government forces' shelling that renders the spring out of service.
Several agreements to reach a truce in that area were met with a dead end, which caused more military operations.
But under the new agreement, the government workers will fix the spring equipment amid pledges by the water authorities in Syria to deliver the water to the capital as soon as possible.
The governor of Damascus countryside, Ala'a Ibrahim, was cited by local media as saying Friday that the water will never be cut off again in Damascus.
He said the Fijeh spring will quickly be repaired, within three days.
According to the new agreement, the rebels who accepted the truce and the reconciliation with the government will be given amnesty and return to normal lives, while the ultra-radicals will be deported to the northwestern province of Idlib as of Friday evening.
The news was met with a sigh of relief from the Damascenes, who have been suffering to secure water, such as waiting in long queues to fill up their jerrycans with water from public parks, or government-run centers for selling bottled water.
Aside from the drinking water, the capital people also have a hard time in managing to take a bath with the scarcity of water.
Closing the water file is not only good for restoring water, but also the upcoming negotiations planned to take place in Astana, Kazakhstan later this month.
The tension in Barada Valley has also threatened a Russian-Turkish brokered truce in Syria.
The truce, or the cessation of hostility agreement which went into effect in Syria on Dec. 30, was hailed by both the opposition and the government alike, each trusting his regional ally.
But as the truce was observed across the country, save for areas under the control of the Islamic State (IS) and the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, Barada Valley, which constitutes of 10 villages, couldn't enjoy the same respite as cutting the water from the capital seemed a redline to the government.
The government defended its offensive in that area, saying the Nusra Front is a main rebel power behind the water outage, and is excluded from the Russian-Turkish ceasefire deal.
With the heavy shelling on the area, several rebel groups reflected their frustration with the government offensive by announcing freezing their participation in talks on the upcoming negotiations in Astana, the first negotiations to include rebels and government officials in Syria to the talks.
But the deal now in Barada has saved the nationwide ceasefire and also the upcoming talks, where hopes are pinned on achieving a breakthrough in the way to bring an end to the nearly six-year-old war in Syria.
Earlier in the day, major Syrian opposition groups, including the largest one, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), were said to will likely attend the upcoming Astana talks, Russian media reported.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, a Syrian opposition delegation arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the Russia-Turkey brokered talks.
The ministry said the delegation was hosted by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also Russia's presidential representative on the Middle East and Africa.
On Wednesday and Tuesday, Bogdanov also discussed the issue over phone with other representatives of the Syrian opposition, and talked in person with ambassadors of several Middle East countries, the ministry said.
The results of the negotiations in Kazakhstan would be submitted to the United Nations Security Council ahead of a round of political negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, which is scheduled for Feb. 8.