UN Syria envoy meets southern rebels for first time

BEIRUT - The UN envoy for Syria met rebel leaders fighting in southern Syria for the first time on Tuesday, their spokesman said, underlining the growing political role of a group helping contain militant influence in the south.

The Southern Front alliance controls wide areas of the southern border zone after seizing important towns and military bases from President Bashar al-Assad's control.

The alliance, which includes fighting groups that have received support from Western and Arab states opposed to Assad, has the upper hand over terrorist movements such as the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and Islamic State that dominate the insurgency elsewhere.

"We showed him our road map, our vision, how the Southern Front sees the transitional period without Assad," Southern Front spokesman Issam al-Rayyes told Reuters.

A spokeswoman for United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said: "We can say that he did meet Syrian opposition figures in Jordan today."

Rayyes said it was not the first time the UN envoy had asked to meet the Southern Front, but previous meetings had not taken place for logistical reasons.

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