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Syrian army demobilises some conscripted, reservist officers

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian military will demobilise some conscripted and reserve officers, the military said on Monday, following the government’s recapture of much of the country from rebels and the dwindling of fighting on many fronts.

Last week U.N. special Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said there was “no major military territorial conflict” at present, but Damascus has sworn to retake every inch of Syria and there is no sign of an imminent peace deal.

The tide of the 7 1/2-year-old conflict turned in the government’s favour in 2015 with the intervention of Russian air power to supplement Iran-backed militias fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

The army general command issued an administrative order on Monday ending active service for conscripted officers who will have completed five extra years, beyond their original 18-month term of mandatory military service, in January.

The order, which takes effect next week, also demobilizes reserve officers who joined in 2013 and who will have completed five years of reserve service by January.

The army began demobilising some conscripts who had served long periods in May, shortly after it took back eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel enclave near the capital Damascus.

After the conflict erupted in 2011, desertions, defections and deaths drained the Syrian army. It has relied on critical support from Shi’ite militias including Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, though devastating Russian air strikes on rebel areas proved decisive in Assad’s military comeback.

Syria conscripts men at age 18 into the army. During the conflict many conscripts said they were serving additional years with no sign of being discharged.

Damascus announced an amnesty in October for men who deserted the army or avoided military service, giving them several months to report for duty without facing punishment.

(Reporting by Kinda Makieh and Ellen Francis Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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