sábado, 10 de setembro de 2016

US and Russia reach tentative agreement for Syria ceasefire

US and Russia reach tentative agreement for Syria ceasefire

Pause in fighting to begin on Monday night, allowing humanitarian aid to flow – with Russian and US forces set to launch joint airstrikes against extremists
Julian Borger World affairs editor

Saturday 10 September 2016 00.12 BST

The US and Russia agreed a tentative ceasefire deal for Syria late on Friday night, intended to lead the way to a joint US-Russian air campaign against Islamic State and other extremist groups and new negotiations on the country’s political future.

The deal was announced by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, after 13 hours of talks in Geneva and a tense wait while Kerry consulted others in his administration by phone to Washington.

Both were cautious in describing the deal but said it was a possible “turning point” after more than five years of a brutal conflict that has taken over 400,000 lives.

“No one is building this based on trust. It is based on oversight, compliance, mutual interest,” Kerry said. “This is an opportunity, and not more than that until it becomes a reality.”

Lavrov described the situation in Syria as a “quagmire” with multiple warring parties, some of whom would seek to undermine the US-Russian deal. For that reason, he added, much of the deal would remain secret to prevent efforts at sabotage. But the Russian foreign minister said Russia had secured the agreement of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus.

Russia will do “what depends on us”, Lavrov promised, but noted “not everything does”.

As part of the complex agreement, a seven-day pause in the fighting would begin on Monday evening, the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. During that time, the Syrian army would relax its stranglehold on rebel held areas of Aleppo allowing for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the starving city, while rebels would stop fighting around government areas.

The Syrian regime would suspend airstrikes on rebel-held areas around the country, the main source of civilian casualties.

If the ceasefire holds, the Russian and US military would start planning joint air operations against extremist groups, including Isis and al-Nusra Front (also referred to as the Front for the Conquest of Syria). The Syrian air force would stay out of zones being targeted by the US and Russia. The US is also aiming to convince other rebel groups to separate themselves from the Nusra Front where they have been fighting the regime together.

“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 ability to provide a turning point, a moment of change,” said Kerry.

Lavrov said he hoped the ceasefire would lead to the prompt resumption of negotiations over Syria’s political future. Kerry said that he had been in contact with the opposition groups in the High Negotiation Committee over the course of the week and they were prepared to take part in such talks if the ceasefire held and humanitarian aid was delivered to besieged civilian populations.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, called the agreement a real window of opportunity and said he would consult the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, on the timing of new political negotiations.

If the ceasefire holds for the first week, US and Russian military officers would form a joint cell to plan and coordinate airstrikes against Isis and al-Nusra. Delineating the zones deemed to be controlled by Nusra Front was one of the thorniest issues at the negotiations, as the extremist group has fought with a range of other rebel organisations on different fronts in western Syria. Disentangling them from their allies on the ground will be one of the biggest challenges of maintaining the ceasefire deal.

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