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Syrian conflict: US-Russia truce greeted with cautious welcome

Syrian conflict: US-Russia truce greeted with cautious welcome

Turkey and the EU have welcomed a nationwide truce for Syria brokered by the US and Russia but have warned that further action is needed.

Turkey said aid must be delivered from the very start while EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini looked towards a “political transition”.

The deal provides for a 10-day truce from Monday followed by coordinated air strikes against jihadist militants.

Fighting raged on Saturday, with at least 20 deaths from one air strike.

A spokeswoman for Syria’s opposition said the plan provided some hope but more details were needed about how it would be enforced.

In the Syrian capital Damascus, the government endorsed the deal, the state news agency Sana reported.

There has been no official reaction from Iran which, like Russia, is allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The conflict in Syria, which began with an uprising against Mr Assad, has raged for five years and claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people.

A man carries an injured man in Idlib, Syria, 10 September

An air strike killed or injured people in the rebel-held city of Idlib on Saturday. A man carries an injured man in Idlib, Syria, 10 September

Millions have fled abroad, many of them seeking asylum in the EU, but nearly 18 million people remain in Syria, which has been carved up by fighting between government and rebel forces.

An air strike on a busy market in rebel-held Idlib, in the north-west, killed 20 people and injured as many as 90 on Saturday, media and opposition activists said.

In other fighting:

  • Rocket attacks on government-held areas of the eastern city of Deir al-Zour by so-called Islamic State (IS) killed at least seven people, Syrian state media say
  • Israeli aircraft struck targets inside Syria after a projectile hit the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights
  • Reports spoke of air strikes by Syrian or Russian jets on the towns of Anadan and Hreitan near Aleppo

Layers of conflict: Analysis by Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East Editor, Damascus

In this photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets, men stand in rubble after airstrikes hit eastern Aleppo, Syria, Friday, 9 September 2016.

Getting a deal was an achievement, given the sour atmosphere between Moscow and Washington. It offers some fragile hope about stopping the slaughter.

But there is scepticism about its chances. That is because a lot is going to have to go right, quite quickly, if the agreement is to work. One necessity is President Assad’s consent. A week-long ceasefire might be possible, but a political deal to end the war is still out of sight.

The Assad regime’s survival depends on the Russians, so he will listen to them. But with Russia’s help, the Assad regime is looking more robust. So it is hard to see why the president, or his Russian allies, would want him to go.

The war in Syria is made up of layers of conflict, which connect up to regional and global rivalries. That makes it very hard to calm, let alone end.

The truce is due to take hold at sunset on Monday, at the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Under the plan, Syrian government forces will end combat missions in specified opposition-held areas.

In an unexpected development, Russia and the US will then establish a joint centre to combat jihadist groups.

These include IS but also Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the group known until recently as the Nusra Front, when it was allied to al-Qaeda.

The deal was reached in Geneva, Switzerland, between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

If the truce holds…

Jihadist groups like so-called Islamic State and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as Nusra Front) face the joint might of the Russian and US air forces

Moderate rebels and civilians in the areas they hold will no longer face the threat of indiscriminate air strikes such as barrel-bombing although the Syrian air force will not be grounded completely; aid deliveries will be allowed to areas currently under siege

President Assad will be in a stronger position as the US and Russia engage two of his most effective military opponents while moderate rebels observe the truce with his forces


Mr Lavrov said only the Russian and US air forces would operate in areas designated for co-ordinated strikes but added that the Syrian air force could operate in other areas.

Welcoming the deal, Turkey, which launched its first major military incursion into Syria last month, said it was essential to halt fighting across Syria and deliver humanitarian aid to those in need “from the first day”.

“The agreement… is very welcome,” said Ms Mogherini, stressing that a UN proposal for a political transition would be “the starting point for resumption of the intra-Syrian talks”.

Previous diplomatic initiatives have foundered on President Assad’s refusal to give up power, leading to widespread scepticism about the latest initiative.

Syria’s history of failed deals

February 2012: Syrian government “categorically rejects” an Arab League plan calling for a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping mission

June 2012/January 2014/January 2016: Three failed UN-sponsored peace conferences in Geneva

September 2013: Kerry and Lavrov negotiate a deal to strip the Syrian government of its chemical weapons in return for the US backing away from air strikes. Since then, the government has again and repeatedly been accused of using toxic chemicals against rebel-held areas

February 2016: World powers agree in Munich on a nationwide “cessation of hostilities” in Syria excluding jihadist groups. There is no agreement on any joint US-Russian operations. The “pause” quickly unravels as Assad promises to regain control of the whole country

March 2016: President Vladimir Putin declares “mission accomplished” in Syria and orders removal of “main part” of Russia’s air army in Syria. Russian air strikes have continued ever since




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Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

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