US, Russia, finalize agreement on Syria ceasefire

After months of repeated violations to a February ceasefire further plunging Syria into the depths of humanitarian crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reached a consensus for a ceasefire in the war-torn country after marathon talks in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday.

“Today the United States and Russia are announcing a plan which we hope will reduce violence, reduce suffering and resume movement toward a negotiated peace and a transition in Syria … that, if followed, has the ability to provide a turning point, a moment of change,” Secretary Kerry said announcing the conclusion of talks.

Set to begin on Monday, the agreement allows for a seven-day cessation of hostilities to observe the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, followed by the Syrian army lifting its siege of rebel-held sections of Aleppo for the delivery of humanitarian aid.  The agreement demands opposition forces similarly discontinue attacks on Syrian army positions in and around the besieged city and the Syrian government to draw airstrikes against opposition forces nationwide to a close.

Correspondingly, should the proposed ceasefire check further hostilities, the Pentagon and the Russian Ministry of Defense would coordinate joint-air attacks on militant groups, particularly the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front.  As stated in the accord, the Syrian government would desist from conducting aerial assaults against zones targeted by either the Russian or U.S. air forces.

Welcomed by the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the group representing a majority of Syrian opposition groups, spokesperson Bassma Kodmani questioned whether the agreement would hold.  In a statement questioning the Russian resolve to end the violence, Kodmani said a great liability rests with Russia owing to its influence with Damascus.

Vowing to follow-through on the agreement, Lavrov specified Russia’s responsibility to pressure Syria to adhere to the accord, but mentioned the burden does not lie exclusively on the Russian Federation.

“Russia will do what depends on us, but not everything does,” Lavrov said in Geneva.

Lavrov added he pinned his hopes to a resumption of talks to determine a political solution to the conflict, which is close to entering its sixth year.

 

[The Guardian] [Photo courtesy zeenews.india.com]