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Syrian army declares ceasefire in flashpoint city

June 17, 2017

The Syrian army has halted all combat operations in the southern city of Deraa for two days. Meanwhile, both Russia and the UN announced plans for separate sets of peace talks among Syrian factions in July.

Syrien Regierungstruppen
Image: Getty Images/AFP/Str

The Syrian army said Saturday in a statement that a ceasefire had been implemented in Deraa, an area covered by an accord brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran last month to set up "safe zones" in the war-ravaged country.

"This comes to support efforts for national reconciliation," the army said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the ceasefire was largely holding in the city, adding the truce was a result of a deal brokered by Jordan, Russia and the United States.

A fierce battle between President Bashar al-Assad's troops and Islamist rebels had been raging in Deraa since early June.

A Syrian opposition source told the German DPA news agency that Assad's regime opted for a ceasefire as it was losing the battle.

"The military situation on the ground in Deraa is in favor of the revolutionaries. Reaching a truce is considered a victory for the revolutionary factions," the source told DPA on condition of anonymity.

Read: Syria: A ceasefire doesn't guarantee peace

Fresh peace talks

The US welcomed the halt in fighting and called on the Syrian government to stick to its ceasefire commitments.

"We will judge this initiative by the results, not the words," Heather Nauerts, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said in a statement. "The opposition should similarly halt attacks to allow the ceasefire to endure - and hopefully be extended - and humanitarian aid to reach those in need."

The local ceasefire comes on the same day as the United Nations announced a fresh round of peace talks in Geneva on July 10.

Russia said it would hold its own talks in Kazakhstan's capital Astana on July 4-5.

Multiple rounds of Syria peace talks have not yielded much in the way of results. More than 320,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war since it began in March 2011.

Read: Syrian opposition pulls out ahead of Astana peace talks

shs/sms (Reuters, dpa)