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Syrian government 'endorses' truce deal

September 10, 2016

The Syrian government has "approved" the US-Russian truce aimed at ending the five-year war in the Middle Eastern country, said the state news agency. The Syrian opposition also expressed optimism about the agreement.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting (Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/A.Shcherbak)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A.Shcherbak

"The Syrian government has approved the agreement, and a cessation of hostilities will begin in Aleppo for humanitarian reasons," the SANA news agency reported Saturday.

One of the goals of the US-Russian agreement was "reaching the necessary political solutions for Syria," the agency said, citing "informed sources."

"The entire agreement was reached with the knowledge of the Syrian government," SANA wrote.

Announcing the breakthrough deal early Saturday in Geneva, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the nationwide "cessation of hostilities" will begin at sundown on September 12, when Muslims observe the religious holiday Eid al-Adha.

"If the plan is implemented in good faith … this can be a moment where the multilateral efforts at the diplomatic table, negotiations could take hold, and it could really provide the Syrian people with a political transition," said Kerry.

The accord calls for a halt to fighting across Syria and increased humanitarian assistance for the people in the battered city of Aleppo.

Men inspect a damaged site after double airstrikes on the rebel held Bab al-Nairab neighborhood of Aleppo Men inspect a damaged site after double airstrikes on the rebel held Bab al-Nairab neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, August 27, 2016 (Photo: Reuters/A. Ismail)
The accord calls for an increase in humanitarian assistance for besieged Aleppo residentsImage: Reuters/A. Ismail

'A real chance'

If the fighting ceases for one weak, the US and Russia, which back opposing sides in the war, could launch joint operations against jihadist groups, including the self-styled "Islamic State" militant organization.

Lavrov told reporters that Washington and Moscow had tentatively delineated the areas in which the militant groups they will be targeting are based.

"We will jointly agree on strikes against terrorists to be carried out by the Russian and American air forces. We have agreed on the zones in which these strikes will be carried out," Lavrov said.

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier praised the deal as "a real chance" to bring aid to besieged people in Syria, but warned that without "rapid implementation" the agreement could fall apart.

Obstacles to truce deal

The Syrian opposition said it would respond to the deal after receiving the "official text."

"If we receive it, the High Negotiations Committee will study its details and the mechanisms of its implementation," the HNC wrote on its Arabic-language website.

A senior HNC member, however, cautiously welcomed the truce deal.

"We are closely following this agreement and are waiting for its details to know the conditions of its implementation," Basma Kodami of the HNC said.

But Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), one of the most powerful groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad, told The Associated Press news agency that if they were hit by Russians and Americans, they would retaliate.

"We have holy warriors who will burn the ground," said a JFS official on condition of anonymity. He also said that his group enjoyed support of a "coalition of crusaders."

The Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, when government forces launched a violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters calling for President Assad to step down.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and half the population displaced since the conflict erupted five years ago.

shs/tj (AFP, dpa, AP)