News / Middle East

    Syria: Cessation of Hostilities to Begin in a Week

    World Powers Agree on ‘Cessation,' Aid Plan for Syriai
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    February 12, 2016 6:37 AM
    World powers have agreed on a plan for a ‘cessation of hostilities’ in Syria, but have stopped short of securing a cease-fire, a move sought by the Syrian opposition to end Russian airstrikes on rebel-held Aleppo. Foreign ministers in the International Syria Support Group also agreed to expand delivery of humanitarian aid during their talks in Munich. VOA's Pam Dockins reports from Munich.
    Pamela Dockins

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday major powers have agreed to seek a cessation of hostilities in Syria to begin in one week’s time.

    Jan Egeland, the chairman of the the United Nations humanitarian meeting in Germany where the Munich Agreement was reached said it "could be the breakthrough we've been waiting for."  

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter Friday the move is "an important step on the way to finding a solution to the Syrian crisis."

    Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, however, has cautioned the world powers about committing their troops to any ground action in Syria.  He said in a statement Friday "a ground operation draws everyone taking part in it into a war."  

    Kerry told reporters 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.”

    "What we got last night on this cessation of hostilities represents what the opposition wanted," Kerry told reporters.  "They wanted it called and defined as a cessation of hostilities. That is very much in line with their thinking and their hopes."

    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.

    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.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, and United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson on Feb. 11, 2016, at the Hilton Hotel join Munich, Ger
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, and United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson on Feb. 11, 2016, at the Hilton Hotel join Munich, Ger

    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.”

    Kerry and Lavrov will co-chair a UN-led task force focused on developing the modalities for a long term end to violence in Syria.

    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.

    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.

    Residents inspect the damage as blood stains are seen on the ground after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel-held al-Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 8, 2016.
    Residents inspect the damage as blood stains are seen on the ground after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel-held al-Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 8, 2016.

    Possible turning point

    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.

    Syrians gather at the Bab al-Salam border gate with Turkey, in Syria, Feb. 6, 2016.
    Syrians gather at the Bab al-Salam border gate with Turkey, in Syria, Feb. 6, 2016.

    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.”



    Fern Robinson contributed to this report from Washington

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Phillip Dennis BA (Hons) from: United Kingdom
    February 13, 2016 2:11 PM
    The agreement does state the ISSG have agreed to a national ceasefire - but with the exception of Daesh and Al Nusra. - It would be good if the Political wing of Al Jabhat Al Nusra could give ground on the initial need to deliver aid and assess the damage in the Towns - All parties agreed & adhered in the Alleppo Red Cresent ceasefire in 2014 - The problem is getting Nusra to leverage with the facilitators.

    They could work this with Al Jhabat Nusra Qism al-Ighatha (Relief Department). Do it town by town under clause 5.2 point 4, and 6.3 of the agreed G communique. On the grounds of protecting vulnerable civilians and protecting the critical Infrastructure. - The Nusra wanted a political wing and a relief department - they may communicate to the Grand Mufta if they think the political will of opposition to Assad is weakened by the migration exodus. - They may ceasefire and merely stand back for a while on these grounds.

    by: Solaris
    February 12, 2016 7:55 AM
    The US is the last hope of terrorist organizations ,they are very thankful because this cessation will give them time for regrouping and reorganization after huge loss inflicted upon them by the Russian Federation and Syria's Assad armies. The dollar is losing its value very fast these days so do the terrorists. New world order is much like the old one : terrorist accomplices get exposed while their last day is not far.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 12, 2016 12:06 PM
    Truth be told... The Syrian war would end in weeks or months of this year if only the US, NATO and their Sunni Muslim allies would stop arming and supplying the Sunni Muslim religious terrorist/rebels that they support, [and then], that would force them to bargain for a UN approved new Syrian government with new presidential elections, [but it seems], the US, NATO and their Sunni Muslim allies, and the terrorist/rebels that they support aren't interested in this option, and rater prolong the war to get rid of Assad? .. WHY? .. Why must millions of innocents suffer and die because the US can't get it's way?

    by: Abdifatah
    February 12, 2016 2:38 AM
    My comment is I am very happy Munich meeting I encourage seriyan opposition group to take cease fire
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 12, 2016 10:00 AM
    Hey Abdifatah _ Is the choice to end the Syrian war really up to the Syrian terrorist/rebels themselves, [or], is the choice to end the war really up to the US and NATO that arms and controls the terrorist/rebels who are really western European controlled puppets on a string dancing to whatever performance the US and NATO wants them to dance to? .. in a puppet dance of suffering, destruction and deaths that continues on?

    The Syrian army fights and dies for Syria and the Syrian people, and the Sunni Muslim religious terrorist/rebels fight and die for a religious cause and martyrdom and not for Syria, whereas the US and NATO people won't fight and die for anything, but will have others (unknowingly) fight and die for their causes? .. Who is fighting who, and who is fighting for who, and who is fighting for what? .. What cause or reason did the US and NATO have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to try and overthrow Assad, and cause the suffering and deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents? .. What was it?

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