Although intermittent fighting continued in areas of western Syria, a ceasefire brokered by Russian and Turkish officials earlier this week took effect Thursday evening, with reports throughout Syria indicating a significant reduction in hostilities.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported continued clashes between troops loyal to the Syrian government and opposition factions continued in Rif Dimashq, Hama, and Deraa Governorates, Aleppo and near Damascus.
“Three documents have been signed. The first is a document between the Syrian government and armed opposition for a ceasefire on the territory of Syria. The second document is a set of measures to verify the ceasefire. The third document is an announcement of their readiness to start peace talks.”
The Kremlin’s statement included Mr. Putin’s satisfaction with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s willingness to abide by the agreements. Putin also announced the Russian military presence in the war-torn nation would be reduced, but reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to backing Assad.
Similarly, the Syrian National Coalition, the organization representing the largest bloc of Syrian opposition forces, announced its support for the truce.
The groundwork for proposed peace talks between Damascus and opposition forces in Kazakhstan scheduled for next month, Russia announced the cessation of hostilities was embraced by seven of Syria’s opposition groups.
As with prior ceasefire agreements, both Ankara and the Kremlin have excluded the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (al-Nusra Front) from the agreement and for consideration as a legitimate participants in peace negotiations. Both groups are considered terror organs.
Under the terms of the accord, with the exception of areas under control of ISIS or Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the whole of Syria is considered bound by a ceasefire; groups in violation of the truce will be declared belligerents; and Russia has vowed to bring the ceasefire before the United Nations Security Council.
The culmination of close to two months of intensive negotiations, the United States was shut out of the ceasefire agreement. Russia has stated America is a welcome partner in the agreement once President-elect Donald Trump takes office Jan. 20, 2017.
[Reuters] [news.com.au] [RT News] [Bloomberg] [Photo courtesy Abdulrhman Ismail/Reuters via Al Jazeera]