The US and Russia have agreed to impose a ceasefire in Syria and to coordinate military operations against terrorist groups in the country should the action hold.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said that the ceasefire was intended to lay the foundation for a peaceful end to the country’s civil war.
The agreement was reached after marathon talks in Geneva led by Mr Kerry and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and announced in a joint news conference on Friday.
Mr Kerry said the truce would begin on Monday, to coincide with the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, and that he hoped it would lead to talks to ultimately “end the conflict”.
“The United States is going the extra mile here because we believe Russia and my colleague have the capability to press the Assad regime to stop this conflict and come to the table and make peace,” he said.
“Today, the United States and Russia are announcing a plan which we hope will reduce violence, ease suffering and resume movement towards a negotiated peace and a political transition in Syria,” he said.
“Out of complexity in Syria, there is emerging a simple choice between war and peace.”
If the plan works as intended, the US and Russia will oversee a political transition away from Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria.
It would allow access to all areas in Syria, including the besieged city of Aleppo.
If the ceasefire holds for at least one week, Mr Kerry said, the US and Russia will establish a joint operation centre to coordinate their military efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and al-Nusra.
Mr Lavrov said that there was lingering distrust among the various groups in Syria and the US and Russia expected that some would attempt to undermine the agreement.
Russia had informed the Assad regime about the agreement, he said, and had been told that it would be followed.
Mr Lavrov said the terms had been documented and agreed to by both sides but would not be made public.
He said he was confident that the ceasefire would provide favourable conditions to resume UN-led peace talks.
The agreement was hailed by Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria.
“It has been a long day with a good result,” he said.
It had looked like a deal would not be forthcoming on Friday night, with Mr Lavrov blaming Washington for the impasse.
In a clear attempt to pressure the US into greater urgency, Mr Lavrov had joked that “it takes five hours for our friends to check with Washington.” He offered sympathies to the large crowd of reporters gathered around him.
Shortly before midnight, Mr Lavrov appeared with several boxes of pizza, saying: “This is from the US delegation.” A few minutes later he returned with two bottles of vodka, adding: “This is from the Russian delegation.”
The US administration has been divided over the peace plan, which hinges on a US-Russian military partnership to target Isil and al-Qaeda in Syria.
The new alliance of sorts will start if Russia halts offensives by Assad’s government and the US can persuade the “moderate” rebels to break ranks with the Nusra front, al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, and other extremist groups.
The Geneva negotiating session underscored the complexity of a conflict that includes myriad militant groups, shifting alliances and the rival interests of the US and Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and Turkey and the Kurds.
Neither the US nor Russia, which have spearheaded diplomatic efforts, has been able to deliver their end of the bargain and the task may now be more difficult as fighting rages around the divided city of Aleppo, Syria’s most populous area and the new focus of a war that has killed 500,000 people.
Assad’s government has appeared to have tightened its siege of the former Syrian commercial hub in the last few days, seizing several key transit points.
Forty days of fighting in Aleppo has killed nearly 700 civilians, including 160 children, according to a Syrian human rights group.
Volunteer first responders said they had pulled the bodies of nine people, including four children, from rubble following air raids on a rebel-held area on Friday.
News Source TelegraphNews