Syria War: Cessation of hostilities due to start at sunset

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the crisis in Syria and forged a cessation of hostilities, September 9, 2016.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

BBC News

A cessation of hostilities is due to start in Syria at sunset on Monday, after a weekend of air strikes.

The 10-day truce is due to be followed by co-ordinated US-Russian air strikes against jihadist militants.

Syrian state media reported that President Bashar al-Assad welcomed the deal, which was reached late on Friday in Geneva after months of talks between Russia and the US.

But it is unclear whether rebel factions will abide by it.

The Free Syrian Army group has written to the United States administration saying that while it would “co-operate positively” with the ceasefire, it was concerned it would benefit the government.

Another rebel group, the influential hardline Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, has rejected deal.

“A rebellious people who have fought and suffered for six years cannot accept half-solutions,” said its second-in-command, Ali al-Omar, in a video statement. But the group’s commander stopped short of explicitly saying it would not abide by its terms.

Syrian men carrying babies make their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held Salihin neighbourhood of the northern city of Aleppo, on 11 September 2016.

Air strikes have killed dozens in rebel-held parts of Syria over the weekend. AFP Photo

Countdown to ceasefire

Ahead of the ceasefire, the Syrian government carried out heavy air strikes in several rebel areas over the weekend, killing about 100 people.

Russian warplanes have also been in action in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, say Syrian activists.

Such intensification of violence has occurred before other, aborted, ceasefires in Syria, reports the BBC’s Middle East analyst Sebastian Usher.

“We hope there will be a ceasefire so that civilians can get a break. The shelling goes on night and day, there are targeted killings, besieged cities,” said Abu Abdullah, who lives in Aleppo’s rebel-held east.

“Civilians have no hope anymore,” he added.

Media captionJohn Kerry: “If this arrangement holds then we will see a significant reduction in violence across Syria”

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

Russia and the US will then establish a joint centre to combat jihadist groups, including so-called Islamic State and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (known until recently as the Nusra Front).

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.

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.

If the truce holds…

A pro-government tank in Aleppo, 9 September

Government forces have regained ground in Aleppo. Photo by GEORGE OURFALIAN

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

Syria’s history of failed deals

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov look toward one another during a press conference following their meeting in Geneva where they discussed the crisis in Syria, 9 September 2016

Can Kerry (left) and Lavrov succeed at last? AFP

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

Map showing control of northern Syria (6 September 2016)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37335829

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One Response to “Syria War: Cessation of hostilities due to start at sunset”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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