Published time: 22 Feb, 2016 16:27 Edited time: 22 Feb, 2016 21:04
The US and Russia have adopted “Terms for a Cessation of Hostilities in Syria” and propose that a ceasefire start on Saturday at midnight Damascus time. Terror groups, such as ISIS and Al-Nusra, are not part of the truce.
According to the statement, the truce will “be applied to [all] those parties to the Syrian conflict that have indicated their commitment” to accept its terms. It will exclude Islamic State, Al Nusra Front and “other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.”
The ceasefire plan also stipulates that other parties should indicate “their commitment to and acceptance of the terms for the cessation of hostilities” by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26.
In terms of GMT, the ceasefire is due to take place on Thursday at 22:00, and all the parties should voice their agreement by 10:00.
President Vladimir Putin said he had a telephone call with Barack Obama and both the leaders welcomed the plan praising it as an important result of several rounds of closed talks.
Putin noted strikes on terror targets are to continue.
“As for ISIS, Al-Nusra and other terror groups – regarded as such by the UN Security Council – they are totally exempt from the truce,” he said. “Strikes against them will continue.”
Moscow and Washington are to work together to determine which groups will not be targeted.
“This is a real chance to stop the bloodshed in Syria,” as well as to deliver humanitarian aid, Putin said in a televised statement. Russia is to exercise its influence on Damascus, he said, adding that he expects to see the same effort from the US with regards to the opposition forces and allies.
According to the joint statement, Russia and the US are also to set up a communications hotline and possibly a working group to exchange information after the cessation of hostilities comes into effect.
The document also announces the establishment of an International Syria Support Group (ISSG) Ceasefire Task Force under the auspices of the UN. It will be tasked with identifying territories held by terrorists, ensuring communications between all parties in order to “rapidly de-escalate tensions,” and reporting any “persistent non-compliant behavior by any of the parties.”
Riad Hijab, a coordinator for the Supreme Negotiations Committee – a group of Syrian opposition forces backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia – also confirmed that a provisional agreement has been reached. He added that the deal would be “according to international guarantees.”
The announcement comes just a day after multiple blasts rocked the Syrian cities of Damascus and Homs, claiming the lives of more than 114 people and wounding hundreds.
A series of explosions hit the Sayeda Zeinab district in the south of Syria’s capital Damascus on Sunday. At least 83 people were killed and almost 200 injured when two suicide bombers reportedly blew themselves up in the crowd gathered in the area of the first blast.
Earlier on the same day, at least 34 people died in a double bombing attack in Homs. According to some reports the death toll in the incident reached 46 with more than 110 injured.
On Sunday, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Damascus is ready for a ceasefire, but will not tolerate terrorists exploiting it to restore their positions, adding that the Syrian Army will still continue fight Al-Nusra and Islamic State, as well as radical Islamist Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry, recently discussed the Syrian crisis and efforts aimed at starting the peace process in the country.
On Saturday, the two ministers discussed “practical cooperation” on Syria between the US and Russia during a telephone call. They also exchanged their views on the progress of the inter-Syrian talks in Geneva, paying attention to the issue of developing “modalities”towards reaching a ceasefire.
At the same time, US and Russian representatives in Geneva agreed on a document outlining the cessation of violence in Syria. It stipulates the measures that each party in the conflict should take to reach a truce.
On Sunday, Lavrov had two more telephone conversations with Kerry and the two ministers discussed different aspects of the future armistice. After speaking to Lavrov by phone, Kerry said the they had reached a provisional agreement on the major terms of the truce.