05012017Mon

Syria and Russia Work together to Broker Cease Fire in Syria

Iran Focus

London, 30 Dec - Russia and Turkey brokered a nationwide ceasefire in Syria that effect at midnight (2200 GMT) This is a potentially major breakthrough in the conflict.

The deal was announced hours earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin and confirmed by the Syrian army and opposition, but does not include designated "terrorists" like the Islamic State group,Yahoo News reports.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, there has been "total calm since the start of the ceasefire in many provinces all over Syria" adding that "no violations were monitored in all regions”.

in Eastern Ghouta, an AFP correspondent said that the shelling and airstrikes stopped from more than one hour after intensive shelling and raids on Thursday, and AFP correspondents in Damascus and Idlib said there had been no sound of shelling, airstrikes or clashes since midnight.

Syria's government hailed the ceasefire as a "real opportunity" to find a political solution to the war, a week after the regime recaptured second city Aleppo in a major blow to rebel forces.

Although Russia and Turkey backed opposing sides in the conflict, they have a close relationship, and did not involve Washington in their negotiations.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President, described the agreement as a "historic opportunity" to end the Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 310,000 people and forced millions from their homes. Putin vowed to reduce Moscow's bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad since last year, but would continue to fight "terrorism" in Syria and maintain its support for the regime.

Sergei Shoigu, Defence Minister, said seven opposition groups, had signed the deal and those who failed to adhere would be considered “terrorists".

Erdogan said Turkey will continue its four-month incursion into Syria against Islamic State group jihadists and Kurdish militia.

The deal did not include IS and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, now rebranded the Fateh al-Sham Front, which could cause complications in areas like Idlib in northwestern Syria, where Fateh al-Sham is allied with rebel groups that have signed on to the deal.
However, Syria’s political opposition and rebels had confirmed their backing for the truce, saying it applied to all parts of the country.

"The agreement is for all of Syria and contains no exceptions or preconditions," said Osama Abou Zeid, a legal adviser to rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner.

Moscow and Ankara are now pushing for peace talks between Damascus and the rebels to start soon in Kazakhstan's capital Astana. "Now we need to do everything for these agreements to come into force, for them to work, so that the negotiating teams that have been or are being formed promptly and as soon as possible arrive in Astana," Putin said.

Staffan de Mistura. UN peace envoy, said he hoped the agreement would "pave the way for productive talks" in Kazakhstan, but also reiterated he wants negotiations mediated by his office to continue early next year.

The peace talks supervised by Russia and Turkey are meant only to supplement UN-backed peace efforts, rather than replace them entirely.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, said that Russia, Turkey and Iran were arranging for the talks and hoping for other key international players to get involved. Lavrov said Moscow would invite Egypt and try to attract other regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq and Jordan, and added that US President-elect Donald Trump's administration involvement would be sought, but the process does not appear to involve outgoing President Barack Obama's administration.

Calling the ceasefire deal a "positive development”, the US State Department said it hoped it would lead to fresh negotiations on Syria's political future.

the truce deal was intended to pave the way for new talks in Astana, Abou Zeid confirmed, and the High Negotiations Committee that has represented the opposition at previous negotiations expected to participate.

Turkey has long backed Syria's opposition, additionally, its relations with Russia soured last year after Ankara shot down a Russian warplane. But the two countries have worked closely on Syria, of late, and Turkey was conspicuously quiet as Assad's forces retook Aleppo.

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