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Syrian opposition supports two-week ceasefire

Syria's opposition has indicated that it is ready for a two-week truce in Syria. The UN hopes to implement the "cessation of hostilities" discussed by Russia and the US in a matter of days.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said it "views a temporary two-week truce as a chance to establish how serious the other side is in committing to the points of the agreement."

The committee, which contains political and armed opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, added that there was still a detailed list of criticisms which needed to be addressed before any truce could work.

One of the opposition's main concerns is Russia's role as a guarantor of the truce. The HNC argues that Moscow is a direct party to the conflict. Russia began carrying out airstrikes in support of Assad at the end of September.

Fears over Assad support

Turkey also voiced reservations about the ceasefire on Wednesday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara supports the deal "in principle" but worries the agreement would give Assad's government forces an advantage.

"We support a ceasefire that will allow our Syrian brothers to breathe. However, this ceasefire agreement provides clear support to the Assad regime," he said in a speech.

Hopes for peace talks

The US and Russia announced Monday that a "cessation of hostilities" would take effect this coming Saturday, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying the truce could "radically transform the crisis situation in Syria." The United Nations hopes the planned halt will provide breathing space for Syrian peace talks to reconvene as early as March 4.

Combatants in the Syria conflict are required to say whether they will agree to the "cessation of hostilities" by midday on Friday (1000 UTC), in order to bring fighting to a halt the following day on Saturday.

End in sight?

If successfully implemented, the ceasefire could see the end of Syria's five-year civil war that has killed more than 260,000 people and forced millions to flee.

At a meeting in Vienna in November, world powers also agreed on an ambitious but yet-to-be implemented plan that envisages six months of intra-Syrian talks, leading to a new constitution and free elections within 18 months. Assad's government announced on Monday that Syria's regularly scheduled parliamentary elections would be held April 13.

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Russia's role in Syria conflict challenged

ksb/cmk (Reuters, AFP)

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