News / Middle East

    Major Powers Agree to Cessation of Hostilities in Syria

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend a news conference after the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Munich, Germany, Feb. 12, 2016.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend a news conference after the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Munich, Germany, Feb. 12, 2016.
    Pamela Dockins

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says major powers meeting in Munich to discuss the situation in war-torn Syria have agreed to a nationwide cessation of hostilities to begin in one week’s time.

    Kerry told reporters early Friday in Munich that the cessation of hostilities will not apply to terrorist groups, including Islamic State, al-Nusra and others. He said the 17-nation International Syria Support Group has agreed that a task force co-chaired by the U.S. and Russia will work to “determine the modalities of a long-term reduction in violence.”

    The top U.S. diplomat added on a cautionary note that the ISSG meeting has produced commitments on paper, but that the real test will be if all the parties honor their commitments.

    The support group also agreed to “accelerate and expand” delivery of humanitarian assistance, starting with key troubled areas and then widening to provide increased humanitarian aid to the entire country.

    Secretary of State John Kerry on the agreement:

    John Kerry statement on agreement for cessation of hostilities in Syriai
    X
    February 12, 2016 1:23 AM
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says major powers meeting in Munich to discuss the situation in war-torn Syria have agreed to a nationwide cessation of hostilities to begin in one week’s time.


    A United Nations task force will oversee the aid delivery beginning with a meeting in Geneva and reporting on progress weekly.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that the humanitarian situation in Syria is worsening and collective efforts are needed to stop it.

    Geneva talks

    Kerry said putting an end to “violence and bloodshed is essential,” but that ultimately a peace plan is needed.

    To that end, he said the ISSG unanimously called for the Geneva talks to resume as soon as possible. He said the ISSG “pledges to take every single measure we can to facilitate negotiations.”

    Earlier, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura delayed until February 25 the next effort to get "proximity talks" under way. These would include members of the Damascus government and the main opposition groups in the civil war, but not meeting directly with each other.

    Rebels: End 'Russia's campaign of slaughter'

    A senior member of the Syrian opposition said earlier Thursday any cease-fire would be welcome if it ends "the current Russian campaign of slaughter," but that there must be guarantees that all of the Damascus regime's backers - including Iran-funded militias and fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement - observe a truce.

    Possible turning point in war

    European diplomats told VOA they believed a delay in a cease-fire for several weeks would allow Russian and Syrian government troops to complete their operation to retake Aleppo and send even more refugees fleeing toward Turkey.

    Regaining control of Aleppo, which has largely been under rebel control since mid-2012, would mark a possible turning point in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's drive to crush his opponents.
     
    “This is straight out of the Kremlin’s playbook,” said a senior European Union diplomat. He compared the Russian negotiating stance on Syria to Moscow's handling of the fighting between government forces and separatist, pro-Russian militias in Ukraine.

    A Turkish official told VOA that Russia might be entering into a truce now because its military assault on Aleppo is now complete.
     
    “Now they can focus on ... preparing for the next stage – Idlib,” the Turkish official said.

    100,000 refugees in a week
     
    In the past week, since a donor's conference about Syria in London, nearly 100,000 Syrians have fled from their homes, International Rescue Committee President David Miliband said.

    The ongoing humanitarian crisis is “making a mockery of the international community’s commitment to help Syrians,” the former British Cabinet member said.
     
    Plans to resume proximity talks between the government and opposition hinge on whether world powers can make sufficient progress in efforts to secure a cease-fire and provide humanitarian access to affected civilians.

    Former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says, "The most important thing is to somehow pressure the Russians and the Syrians to stop the aerial bombardments which are causing these floods of refugees.”
     
    However, he added, the U.S. had not shown any “willingness to genuinely pressure Russia.”

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Mudassar Hassan from: Pakistan
    February 12, 2016 9:40 AM
    Major Powers should also agree to stop aerial bombardments on YEMENI people.

    by: mr nobody from: usa
    February 12, 2016 12:24 AM
    "“This is straight out of the Kremlin’s playbook,” said a senior European Union diplomat. He compared the Russian negotiating stance on Syria to Moscow's handling of the fighting between government forces and separatist, pro-Russian militias in Ukraine."

    So American leadership will respond by doing exactly the same thing that it did in Ukraine. Whilst similarly expressing shock when it gets the same result.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    February 11, 2016 10:11 PM
    There should be no let up in air campaign against the terrorists backed by the US and NATO as well as other dictators in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia...Continuing of air attacks on them will pressure them to sit down on the table or face complete destruction.
    That is the way to end the civil war!
    Any road to provide those terrorists with food and weapons must be sealed off. Any humanitarian food to the region must be checked up by Syrian government!

    by: Igor from: Russia
    February 11, 2016 10:11 PM
    There should be no let up in air campaign against the terrorists backed by the US and NATO as well as other dictators in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia...Continuing of air attacks on them will pressure them to sit down on the table or face complete destruction.
    That is the way to end the civil war!
    Any road to provide those terrorists with food and weapons must be sealed off. Any humanitarian food to the region must be checked up by Syrian government!

    by: AHMED from: INDIA
    February 11, 2016 9:00 PM
    Why USA wants a change in regime in Syria and no change in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE AND Oman.
    Because of USA Wrong policies 400,000/= have been killed by their Sponsor Terrorist Groups and same numbers become homeless.
    Very poor vision about Middle East.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora