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US and Russia agree on Syria cessation of hostilities

Syria's civil war has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced. Image by: Reuters

US and Russia agree on Syria cessation of hostilities
February 23
11:24 2016

The US and Russia have reached a draft agreement on the cessation of hostilities between the Syrian government and opposition groups.

The proposal on Monday calls on all sides to sign up to the agreement by midday on Friday February 26 and to cease hostilities by midnight the following day.

Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor, James Bays, reporting from New York, said high-level sources from a number of countries had confirmed that an agreement between the co-chairs of the taskforce, Russia and the US, had been reached.

“Clearly they’ll have to get all the warring parties to sign up to it but there have been days of negotiation about how this will work,” Bays said.

“I understand an announcement will come from the US Secretary of State John Kerry in the near future.”

A statement issued by the US State Department said it was working with Moscow to “develop procedures” to ensure those abiding by the deal are not attacked by the Russian armed forces or the US-led coalition.

“The United States and the Russian Federation together call upon all Syrian parties, regional states and others in the international community to support the immediate cessation of violence and bloodshed in Syria,” the statement said.

The US and Russia are co-chairs of the international task force working towards a reduction in violence.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the draft deal but said he hoped the move will be the first step towards an enduring ceasefire.

The development could pave the way for further talks and possibly a ceasefire between the rebels and the government of Syria led by President Bashar al-Assad.

The deal excludes the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and the al-Nusra Front, which are listed as terrorist groups by the UN Security Council.

Effect on the ground

Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said the move reflected a determination on the part of the Russians and the US to force a change on the ground in Syria.

“There is a will now on the part of the Russians and the Americans to move forward on this…I think the Americans are quite fed up and they really wanted something a couple of weeks ago,” Bishara said.

“Moscow is running out of targets in Syria and it knows all too well it cannot continue with the same old game that started on September 30 without any concrete results.”

“Whether it works or not on the ground by the end of the month remains to be seen.”

Most rebel factions involved in the Geneva peace process are likely to adhere to the deal, and it is probable Russian pressure will force Assad to comply also, Bishara said.

Syria’s civil war started five years ago in March 2011 when initially peaceful protests against Assad’s rule were brutally put down.

The conflict has left more than at least 250,000 people dead and millions displaced.

Source: Al Jazeera



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