News / Middle East

    US, Russia Work to Sell Syria Cease-fire Plan

    FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends the "Supporting Syria and the Region" conference in London, Feb. 4, 2016. Kerry said Sunday the "path to peace" in Syria is "actually right in front of us now."
    FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends the "Supporting Syria and the Region" conference in London, Feb. 4, 2016. Kerry said Sunday the "path to peace" in Syria is "actually right in front of us now."
    VOA News

    The latest push to bring at least a temporary halt to the fighting in Syria continues Monday with the United States and Russia trying to convince opposing sides of the conflict to accept a cease-fire proposal.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday a "provisional agreement" had been reached with Russia and could begin within a few days.

    Kerry spoke by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose ministry said the two powers agreed on the parameters of the cease-fire. Neither diplomat released details of the plan. 

    But even as talk again focused on stopping the fighting, violence continued Sunday with massive bomb attacks claimed by the Islamic State group in Damascus and Homs. The Damascus attacks killed at least 83 people, while another 59 died in Homs.

    U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura strongly condemned the bombings.  Earlier this month, he suspended peace talks between the government and opposition groups with the hope of resuming them this week, but on Friday said that was no longer realistic.

    WATCH: US Secretary of State Kerry discusses Syria conflict

    Kerry: 'Provisional' Deal Made With Moscow for Syria Cease-firei
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    February 21, 2016 2:00 PM
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday a "provisional agreement" has been made with Russia for a cease-fire in Syria's five-year civil war. American and Russian diplomats will now need to convince their allies in the country to sign on to the deal. Moscow backs forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a long-time U.S. foe, with military support.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his government is ready for a cease-fire, but not if "terrorists" use it to bolster their positions. He has regularly referred to any opposition fighters as terrorists throughout the conflict that began in March 2011. 

    Kerry said Assad-ally Russia would be speaking with the Syrian government, as well as Iran, while the U.S. would be consulting with opposition groups in order to try to implement the cease-fire.

    Rebel group 'willing'

    The main rebel coalition in Syria has said it is willing to accept a temporary truce, but only if Russia calls a halt to its airstrikes and the Damascus government ends its offensive near the Syrian-Turkish border.

    Russia has said it will not stop its airstrikes against what it calls terrorist targets in Syria, even if there is international agreement on a temporary truce, which diplomats have been calling a "cessation of hostilities."

    The United States and others involved in trying to end the Syrian civil war say most Russian bombs are directed at rebels fighting the Syrian government, not at Islamic State terrorists.

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian citizens gather at the scene where two blasts exploded in the pro-government neighborhood of Zahraa, in Homs province, Syria, Feb. 21, 2016.
    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian citizens gather at the scene where two blasts exploded in the pro-government neighborhood of Zahraa, in Homs province, Syria, Feb. 21, 2016.

    U.S. officials have given a guarded account a conversation Kerry and Lavrov had Saturday, reviewing the work of two teams working in Geneva on the Syrian crisis – one on the urgent need to get humanitarian assistance to civilians trapped by the civil war in Syria, the other on a temporary truce intended to lead to a full and formal cease-fire.

    Both sides agreed there has been some progress in delivering aid shipments to civilian neighborhoods under siege by Syrian government troops and their allies.

    A U.S. statement added that humanitarian groups need immediate access to additional areas, and that future deliveries should be "sustained and unimpeded."

    The Syrian rebel coalition known as the High Negotiations Committee met in Saudi Arabia Saturday and condemned Russia's military action supporting the Damascus government. The coalition said Russia has "shown disdain for the international community and disregard for the lives of Syrians."

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, speaks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, second from right, before a bilateral meeting in Amman, Jordan, Feb. 21, 2016.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, speaks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, second from right, before a bilateral meeting in Amman, Jordan, Feb. 21, 2016.

    Russia's airstrikes have been blamed for increasing the war's toll on Syrian civilians, prompting more of them to leave their homes as refugees and try to flee across the border into Turkey.

    Russia's UN request rejected

    Moscow has complained that Turkey is about to send ground forces into Syria, and it called for Security Council action to block that at an emergency meeting Friday.

    Other Security Council members rejected Russia's draft resolution, and Turkey's U.N. ambassador said his country would only take such a direct role in Syria if it was backed by the United Nations.

    Russia's proposal to the Security Council did not mention Turkey by name, but its intent was clear. It strongly condemned cross-border shelling into Syria and what Russia says is an unrestricted flow of "terrorist" fighters and illegal weapons shipments into the country.

    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks to Spanish newspaper El Pais in Damascus, Feb. 20, 2016.
    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks to Spanish newspaper El Pais in Damascus, Feb. 20, 2016.

    Syria's main opposition group agreed to the "possibility" of a temporary truce Saturday while harshly criticizing Russia for failing to hold to a temporary agreed-upon cease-fire.

    The High Negotiations Committee, a Saudi-backed coalition of Syrian opposition groups, issued a statement saying Russia had shown "disdain for the international community and disregard for the lives of Syrians." The groups agreed on the possibility of a deal if the United Nations could guarantee a cease-fire and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

    The statement followed Russia's call for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss its concerns that Turkey may be planning to send ground troops into Syria.

    The Russian delegation presented a one-page draft resolution that would have condemned such a move. It also “strongly” condemned cross-border shelling, the flow of terrorist fighters and the illegal movement of weapons from Syria’s “neighbors.”

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    Comments
         
    by: Drac from: USA
    February 22, 2016 2:58 PM
    Odd I didnt know America and Russia were the men and women fighting on the ground....ceasefire from world powers who are in the air is pointless the fight is between Syrians Iraqi's turkmens, Kurds etc and they will ignore what Americans and Russians do

    the bombing in Homs yesterday is proof.

    none of these countries hold any sway with the fighting groups on the ground

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    February 21, 2016 10:35 PM
    Once again, you can't make this crap up! Both of the most powerful nations in the world cannot defeat ISIS. Keep on voting for Socialists and Democraps, and groups like ISIS and Taliban and Al Qaeda, etc will always thrive!

    by: AHMED from: INDIA
    February 21, 2016 8:40 PM
    There will be no peace in Syria as long as Saudi Arab and USA support Terrorist Groups in Syria.
    There is election in Syria. But there is no election in Saudi Arab, but there is no pressure on SA from USA to have election. I cannot understand USA policy. I think main policy of USA to have disturbance in Middle East with the help of SA, as to increase their weapons sell with handsome margin.
    USA & SA responsible for this destruction and killing of helpless Syrians with the hand of IS.
    In Syria peoples are hungry, thirsty and without any shelter. What is the use to increase their pain if We have resources even then we are willing to fulfill their basic needs.

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    February 21, 2016 7:16 PM
    I just want to watch from a safe distance. I just don't want any dangerous people coming to my country, we have enough of those already. I just don't want my tax money going to pay for rebuilding things other people have destroyed for a cause I have no interest in. Let those who have the most to lose, who are at the greatest risk be the ones to spend their money and treasure protecting themselves.

    The difference between Ukraine and Syria is that the Ukrainians had guns to fight back against their oppressors like Yanukovych and his Russian sympathizing goon squads. Unarmed all the Syrians can do is cower and die or flee. This is why America is and will always remained armed to the teeth. Americans have in their hands the means and will to protect themselves. Syrians don't.

    by: Elias
    February 21, 2016 7:04 PM
    The Isis claims that they bombed Damascus and your headline on this subject tells me you acknowledge received proper information. My problem is, nowhere did I see condemnation of these terroristic act from you or anyone who call himself western. Or all of sudden did you fall blind? Don't tell me that they have legal right to bomb civilians.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 21, 2016 9:22 AM
    DOESN'T ANYBODY LISTEN? .. Ignore the propaganda and (listen) to what both side want and demand? .. Most of all, the US side wants Assad to go and replaced by a handpicked Sunni Muslim unelected government? .. WHY? .. The greatest threat to all the Sunni Muslim governments, kingdoms and Emirates is freedom and democracy? .. None of the Sunni Muslim countries, kingdoms and Emirates would survive freedom and democracy in their governments, would they?

    WHEREAS? .. The Russian side wants (peace) in Syria and in the region with a new democratic elected government with the Syrian people deciding what type of freedom and democracy they want in their government, without foreign interference? .. PEACE, freedom and democracy in Syria is what the Russian side wants, because it isn't any threat to Russia or to the Syrian army allies? .. Strange isn't t? .. The Russians want peace, freedom and democracy in Syria with free elections, and the US wants to (install) a handpicked Sunni Muslim government in Syria without freedom and democracy or free elections to install that new Sunni Muslim government? .. that's what I heard?
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    February 21, 2016 10:32 PM
    Yes! Russia always has been on the forefront of freedom and democracy! US is evil and determined to control the world! Good grief man, what kool-aid have you been drinking???? Please go live in Russia. Let's see how you feel then. Say 'wazzzzzup' to Snowden for me.
    In Response

    by: christopher j smith from: burton
    February 21, 2016 11:06 AM
    Your sarcasm is deeply appreciated...Russians interested in Democracy and freedom....good one!

    by: Theodore Frimet from: Croydon, Pennsylvania, US
    February 21, 2016 8:51 AM
    By all means possible, negotiate an immediate and sustainable cease fire. Deliver humanitarian relief and supplies. Introduce a provisional means for a change in government that includes boundaries for Alawite, Kurdish, and a third more monumental part for the Greater People of Syria.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    February 22, 2016 2:19 AM
    You sound like a mouthpiece of the Turks and the Saudis who back ISIS and AQ.

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