The Latest: Syria rebels release captured government pilot
Posted September 1
DAMASCUS, Syria — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):
A Syrian monitoring group and an Arab TV station say a Syrian government pilot whose plane was downed in rebel territory in the country's east has been released by the rebels.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the pilot was released Friday, along with over 30 other captured soldiers.
The pan Arab Al-Mayadeen TV station also reported the pilot's release. The pilot was captured in mid-August after the rebels shot down a government warplane in a desert area where Syrian troops and their allies are on the offensive. The government is seeking to dislodge U.S.-backed rebel forces from the area. It is also on the offensive there to secure its access to the largely Islamic State-held Deir el-Zour province.
According to the Observatory, the deal included the release of detainees held in government prisons.
French President Emmanuel Macron said his country is pushing for a diplomatic initiative for peacebuilding in Syria.
Following a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Paris, Macron said Friday his proposal of a new international contact group on Syria would include Lebanon and other countries of the region that receive Syrian refugees.
Macron wants to organize a meeting of "investors" in Paris at the beginning of next year to help mobilizing public and private financing for refugees-related projects.
He also proposed a summit next year about the return of Syrian refugees to their country, a "key issue" for the stabilization of the region.
He said Syrians currently living outside their country will have to play a "major role" in the future process of political transition in Syria.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has traveled to a town recently captured from Islamic State group militants to attend Eid al-Adha prayers.
Syria's state media says President Bashar Assad prayed Friday in Bilal mosque in Qarat, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Damascus. Qarat fell during a joint offensive between Syria's army and Lebanon's Hezbollah. The Lebanese army carried out a separate but simultaneous campaign on the other side of the border, securing the shared frontier for the first time in years.
The offensive was followed by a controversial a Hezbollah-negotiated deal to transport the remaining militants to an IS-held town in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border in exchange for revealing the fate of missing Lebanese fighters.
The deal angered Iraq and the U.S., which launched airstrikes, disrupting the deal.