Russia Announces Ceasefire in Syria, Effective Midnight

تم نشره في Thu 29 December / Dec 2016. 01:00 AM
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in St. Petersburg, Russia December 26, 2016. – (REUTERS)

MOSCOW/ANKARA — Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ceasefire between Syrian opposition groups and the Syrian government starting at midnight on Thursday.

The parties were also prepared to start peace talks, Putin said, after Moscow, Iran and Turkey expressed readiness to broker a deal to settle the nearly six-year-old Syrian war.

The Syrian army announced a nationwide halt to fighting but said ISIS and ex-Nusra Front militants and all groups linked to them would be excluded from the deal. It did not say which unnamed groups would be excluded.

Several rebel officials told Reuters they had agreed to the ceasefire, due to come into effect at 2200 GMT on Thursday.

It was the third nationwide ceasefire agreed in Syria this year. The previous two, negotiated by Washington and Moscow, collapsed within weeks as warring sides accused each other of violations. The current deal does not involve the United States or United Nations.

One rebel commander expressed optimism that this deal would hold: "This time I have confidence in its seriousness. There is new international input," he said, without elaborating.

Talks on the latest truce picked up momentum after Russia, Iran and Turkey last week said they were ready to back a peace deal and adopted a declaration setting out principles that any agreement should adhere to.

Putin said opposition groups and the Syrian government had signed a number of documents, including the ceasefire, measures to monitor the truce, and a statement on readiness to start peace talks.

"The agreements reached are, of course, fragile, need a special attention and involvement... But after all, this is a notable result of our joint work, efforts by the defence and foreign ministries, our partners in the regions," Putin said.

He also said Russia had agreed to reduce its military deployment in Syria, where its support has turned the tide in favour of President Bashar al-Assad in a war that has killed more than 300 thousand and forced more than 11 million to flee their homes.

Turkey said it and Russia would guarantee the ceasefire.

"With this agreement, parties have agreed to cease all armed attacks, including aerial, and have promised not to expand the areas they control against each other," the Turkish foreign ministry said.

Three rebel officials told Reuters the deal excluded ISIS, but did include the Jabhat Fateh al Sham group, formerly al Qaeda's Syria branch, the Nusra Front - appearing to contradict the Syrian army's statement.

Russia's defence ministry said the insurgent groups that signed the agreement included the powerful Islamist Ahrar al Sham, Jaish al Islam, which operates primarily near Damascus, and Jabha Shamiya, one of the main groups that has operated in Aleppo.

(Reuters)

Comment