Key players in Syria conflict back ceasefire deal following calls with Russia, US | News | DW | 24.02.2016
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Key players in Syria conflict back ceasefire deal following calls with Russia, US

Syrian President Assad has agreed to honor a planned ceasefire following a phone call with Moscow. While a number of groups have also agreed to support the deal, parts of the Syrian opposition have yet to sign on.

With the clock ticking on a US-Russia brokered ceasefire deal, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said he was ready to respect the terms of the proposed truce on Wednesday.

After discussing the deal in detail on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad said the proposals are "important step in the direction of a political settlement," the Kremlin said in a statement.

"In particular, [Assad] confirmed the readiness of the Syrian government to facilitate the establishment of a ceasefire," the statement said.

Putin and Assad "stressed the importance of continuing an uncompromising fight" against jihadi groups and "other terrorist groups included in the relevant UN Security Council list," the Kremlin continued.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said that although Moscow and Damascus differed on certain topics "the main goal is to stop the bloodletting in Syria."

The ceasefire is due to take effect at midnight Friday and apply to the government's military, foreign interventionist forces and certain rebel groups. The deal does not include fighting aimed at IS, al-Nusra Front, or any other militia designated as a terrorist group by the UN Security Council.

Opposition undecided

The opposition in Syria, however, has not yet decided whether it will commit to the ceasefire, chief negotiator Mohamad Alloush told Orient News on Wednesday.

"We have until Friday," said Alloush, adding that the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) will make the final decision. Combatants are required to say whether they will agree to the "cessation of hostilities" by noon on Friday (1000 GMT), and to halt fighting by the midnight deadline.

"There was no consultation of Syrians. Will all the observations, additions and amendments requested by Syrians be taken into consideration?" Alloush told Orient News.

Opposition members have expressed fears government forces backed by Russian airstrikes will continue to conduct campaigns against the rebels under the pretext of targeting al-Nusra Front - Syria's al Qaeda branch.

"How can [Russia] offer guarantees while it is part of the problem?," Alloush asked.

World leaders lend support

Putin also spoke with leaders from Iran and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, with both nations expressing their support for the proposed ceasefire.

A terse statement issued on Putin's conversation with King Salman of Saudi Arabia said the king "welcomed the agreement that was reached and expressed his willingness to work with Russia to implement them."

Saudi Arabia is a key backer of the opposition, whereas Russia and Iran support the Assad government.

One day prior, US President Barack Obama made a few calls of his own to discuss the deal with European leaders. The White House reported that Obama spoke via videoconference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The leaders "called on all parties to implement it faithfully," and "underscored the importance of an immediate halt to the indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations," said the White House statement.

Turkish skepticism

Turkey, however, voiced reservations about the ceasefire on Wednesday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey 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.

"If this is a ceasefire that is up to the mercy of Russia, which has brutally attacked the moderate opposition and aligned with Assad under the pretext of fighting Islamic State, we fear that the fire pouring over the innocent people will never stop," Erdogan said.

rs/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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