Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ceasefire between Syrian opposition groups and the Syrian government that is set to start at midnight tonight (5 p.m. ET).
A spokesman for the main moderate Syrian opposition groups says they have agreed to abide by ceasefire, which will include all parts of Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey will press ahead with its military offensive to clear a border area in northern Syria from ISIS militants, saying the agreement does not cover terror organizations. They include the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the al-Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Sham Front.
Osama Abu Zeid has told reporters in Turkey that the truce will be followed by peace talks in Kazakhstan that will focus on finding a solution for Syria’s crisis.
He said 13 armed opposition factions have signed the five-point agreement.
Abu Zeid says the peace talks will be based on the Geneva 2012 declaration that called for a transitional governing body with full executive powers to run affairs in Syria during the transitional period.
He said “this means that there will be no presence for [President Bashar al-] Assad in the future.”
Excerpts of the agreement that were obtained by The Associated Press say the truce will include all areas where the “moderate opposition” has a presence, including those where al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria exists.
It says the opposition will be given the right to name its delegation to peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana.
The talks will begin within a month from the time the ceasefire goes into effect. It says the peace talks will be in accordance with December 2015 United Nations Security Council resolution 2254 which endorsed a road map for a transitional period that includes parliamentary and presidential elections within 18 months.
Russian Embassy hit by mortar shell
The Russian Embassy in Damascus was hit by a mortar shell Thursday afternoon, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
The blast caused no casualties, Zakharova said in a statement on the ministry’s website.
The embassy had been hit by shells twice on Wednesday.
3rd ceasefire this year
Putin said Thursday that Russia and Turkey will guarantee the truce.
‘The agreements reached are, of course, fragile, need a special attention and involvement.’ – Vladimir Putin, Russian president
This is the third nationwide ceasefire that has been agreed on in Syria this year. The previous two, negotiated by Washington and Moscow, collapsed within weeks as warring sides accused each other of violations.
The current deal does not involve the United States or United Nations.
One rebel commander expressed optimism that this deal would hold: “This time I have confidence in its seriousness. There is new international input,” he told The Associated Press, without elaborating.
The Kremlin statement came after Moscow, Iran and Turkey said they were ready to broker a peace deal in the nearly six-year-old Syrian war.
“The agreements reached are, of course, fragile, need a special attention and involvement …. But after all, this is a notable result of our joint work, efforts by the Defence and Foreign ministries, our partners in the regions,” Putin said.
He also said Russia had agreed to reduce its military deployment in Syria, where its support has turned the tide in favour of Assad in a war that has killed more than 300,000 and forced more than 11 million to flee their homes.
Earlier this month, thousands of people were evacuated from the city of Aleppo after Syrian rebels reached an agreement with Damascus to withdraw from the city.
Syria’s military said it had agreed to the nationwide ceasefire. In a statement carried by Syrian state news agency SANA on Thursday, the military command “declares a comprehensive nationwide cessation of hostilities as of midnight.”
It said the ceasefire comes after the “successes achieved by the Armed Forces,” an apparent reference to the capture of rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo earlier this month.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the truce will include 62,000 opposition fighters across Syria, and that the Russian military has established a hotline with its Turkish counterpart to monitor compliance.
Putin has ordered the Russian military to scale down its presence in Syria, where it has provided crucial support to Assad’s forces.
Putin didn’t say how many troops and weapons will be withdrawn. He said Russia will continue “fighting international terrorism in Syria” and supporting Assad’s military.
Putin also said the Russian military will maintain its presence at both an air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia and the naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s administration will be welcome to join the Syrian peace process once he takes office.
Lavrov said Egypt will be invited to join the negotiations, and that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan could eventually join as well.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said it welcomes the ceasefire.
“With this agreement, parties have agreed to cease all armed attacks, including aerial, and have promised not to expand the areas they control against each other,” says a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
The statement calls on all sides wielding influence on the warring parties to provide the necessary support to halt hostilities.
Russia is a key ally of Assad, while Turkey is one of the main backers of the opposition. Several previous attempts to halt the civil war have failed.
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