The United States and Russia have agreed a tentative ceasefire deal for Syria, intended to lead the way to a joint US-Russian air campaign against the Islamic State and other extremist groups and new political negotiations within the country.
The deal was announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, yesterday night after 13 hours of talks in Geneva, reports the Guardian. Both were cautious in describing the deal but said it was a possible “turning point” after more than five years of a brutal war that has killed more than 400,000 people.
“No one is building this based on trust. It is based on oversight, compliance, mutual interest. This is an opportunity, and not more than that until it becomes a reality,” said Kerry. Lavrov described the situation in Syria as a “quagmire” of multiple warring parties, some of whom would seek to undermine the US-Russian deal. For that reason, he said, much of the deal would remain secret to prevent efforts at sabotage.
Russia will do “what depends on us”, Lavrov promised. Syria’s mainstream opposition also welcomed the proposed deal on Saturday, saying the ceasefire could eventually end the suffering of the civilians.
As part of the agreement, a seven-day pause in the fighting would begin on Monday evening, which also marks the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. During that time, the Syrian army would allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to the starving city, while rebels would stop fighting around government areas.
The Syrian regime would also suspend airstrikes on rebel-held areas around the country.
If the ceasefire holds, the Russian and the US military would start planning joint air operations against extremist groups, including ISIS and al-Nusra Front. The Syrian air force would stay out of zones being targeted by the US and Russia.
“Today the United States and Russia are announcing a plan which we hope will reduce violence, reduce suffering and resume movement toward a negotiated peace and a transition in Syria … that, if followed, has the ability to provide a turning point, a moment of change,” Kerry said.
Lavrov said he hoped the ceasefire would lead to the prompt resumption of negotiations over Syria’s political future. Staffan de Mistura, the United Nation’s special envoy for Syria, called the agreement a window of opportunity and said he would consult the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, on the timing of new political negotiations.