Govern­ment, rebels sign up to na­tion­wide cease-fire

Putin says truce deal opens door to peace talks as Rus­sia agrees to re­duce mil­i­tary de­ploy­ment

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Da­m­as­cus and Moscow

Syr­ian govern­ment said on Thurs­day that it would halt all mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions from mid­night, un­der a deal bro­kered by Rus­sia and Turkey, with the op­po­si­tion Na­tional Coali­tion an­nounc­ing sup­port for the agree­ment.

Ear­lier, Rus­sia’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin an­nounced the deal, say­ing the Syr­ian govern­ment and “main forces of the armed op­po­si­tion” had signed on.

“Three doc­u­ments have been signed. The first is a doc­u­ment be­tween the Syr­ian govern­ment and armed op­po­si­tion for a cease-fire on the ter­ri­tory of Syria,” Putin said at a meet­ing with his de­fense and for­eign min­is­ters.

“The sec­ond doc­u­ment is a set of mea­sures to ver­ify the cease-fire. The third doc­u­ment is an an­nounce­ment of their readi­ness to start peace talks.”

Putin also said that Rus­sia had agreed to re­duce its mil­i­tary de­ploy­ment in Syria.

Turkey and Rus­sia will act as guar­an­tors of the cease-fire, Turkey’s For­eign Min­istry said on Thurs­day.

Talks on the cease-fire picked up mo­men­tum af­ter Rus­sia, Iran and Turkey last week said they were ready to back a deal and adopted a dec­la­ra­tion set­ting out prin­ci­ples that any agree­ment should ad­here to.

The United States has been side­lined in re­cent ne­go­ti­a­tions and is not due to at­tend the next round of peace talks in As­tana, cap­i­tal of Kaza­khstan.

Its ex­clu­sion re­flects grow­ing frus­tra­tion from both Turkey and Rus­sia over Wash­ing­ton’s pol­icy on Syria, of­fi­cials have said.

How­ever, Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov said the US could join the peace process once Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump takes of­fice.

Syria’s army con­firmed the cease-fire in a state­ment car­ried on state tele­vi­sion but added that the halt ex­cluded com­bat against the Is­lamic State and the for­mer al-Qaida af­fil­i­ate pre­vi­ously known as al-Nusra Front, now re­branded the Fateh al-Sham Front.

Starts from mid­night

The truce deal will go into ef­fect from mid­night, Rus­sia’s De­fense Min­is­ter Sergei Shoigu said.

Shoigu said the rebel groups that have signed up to the cease-fire com­prise some 62,000 fight­ers and that ne­go­ti­a­tions had been go­ing on for two months to se­cure the truce.

Syria’s lead­ing op­po­si­tion Na­tional Coali­tion body, a po­lit­i­cal en­tity based in Turkey, con­firmed its sup­port for the truce.

“The Na­tional Coali­tion ex­presses sup­port for the agree­ment and urges all par­ties to abide by it,” spokesman Ahmed Ra­madan said.

He said key rebel groups in­clud­ing the pow­er­ful Ahrar al-Sham and Army of Is­lam fac­tions had signed the cease­fire deal, though there was no im­me­di­ate con­fir­ma­tion from rebel of­fi­cials.

The agree­ment comes af­ter Da­m­as­cus re­cap­tured the coun­try’s sec­ond city Aleppo from rebels, in the worst blow to op­po­si­tion forces.

The cease-fire will be the first na­tion­wide halt in fight­ing since a week­long truce from Sept 12-19 that col­lapsed af­ter sev­eral in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence.

A pre­vi­ous truce was im­ple­mented in Fe­bru­ary, with both of those deals or­ga­nized by Rus­sia and the US.

More than 310,000 peo­ple have been killed in Syria since the con­flict be­gan in March.

PRO­VIDED BY REUTERS

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