US, Russia announce truce deal on Syria
Truce to begin Monday with start of Muslim holiday celebration of Eid al-Adha
The U.S. and Russia have agreed to take steps to reduce violence in war-torn Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on early Saturday.
In a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Kerry said a truce would commence with the start of the Muslim holiday celebration of Eid al-Adha that begins Monday.
Kerry dubbed the deal a “turning point”, according to media reports, and said that along with Russia he hoped it would “reduce violence, ease suffering and resume movement towards a negotiated peace and a political transition in Syria”.
He also called on Syrians to support the deal that aims to “bring this catastrophic conflict to the quickest possible end through a political process”.
All attacks and airstrikes would be stopped and unobstructed access allowed to besieged areas, including the northern city of Aleppo, Kerry said. Both sides had agreed to pull back from Castello Road in Aleppo to create a demilitarized zone that would allow access, he added.
Daesh and al-Nusra are not included in the deal as both are listed as terror groups by the UN Security Council.
Lavrov said the two countries agreed on five documents related to fighting terrorism and a truce in Syria.
The UN issued a statement shortly after the deal was announced saying it “welcomes the understanding” on the cessation of hostilities.
“The United Nations hopes that the political will that led to this understanding is sustained,” the statement said. “It creates a real window of opportunity which all relevant actors in the region and beyond should seize to put the crisis in Syria on a different path and ease the violence and suffering being endured by the Syrian people.”
- 'Judged by actions'
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook issued a statement on the deal commending it as an arrangement that “could achieve a sustained cessation of hostilities.”
He added: “This preliminary understanding now requires the Russians and the regime to carry out a number of very specific steps, including, importantly, a sustained cessation of hostilities for at least seven days.”
The spokesman said that if Moscow failed to keep the commitments under Friday’s deal, potential military cooperation between the U.S. and Russia would not occur.
-Germany urges rapid implementation
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the truce deal, and stressed the importance of its rapid implementation.
"I call on all parties to the conflict, in Syria and in the region, to comply with the terms agreed by the U.S. and Russia and to suspend hostilities on Monday at the latest," he said in a written statement.
Steinmeier underlined that the cease-fire could become a genuine, new chance to gain humanitarian access to hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need.
"And it will pave the way for the continuation of the UN-mediated negotiations on a political solution in Geneva," he added.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the success of the deal depended on the regime delivering on its obligations.
Johnson said Assad and his supporters such as Russia would be “judged by their actions alone” when the deal takes effect on Monday.
“For years we have seen the indiscriminate targeting by the Assad regime of civilians and moderate groups and heard only broken promises leading to sieges and starvation,” Johnson said in a statement issued Saturday.
“I call on all parties to the Syria conflict and all countries with influence upon them to do what is needed to end violence and lift sieges.”
Referring to a Syrian opposition plan for peace revealed earlier this week, he said the regime “must now respond with convincing ideas of its own, not bombing, shelling and sieges.”
* Michael Sercan Daventry contributed to this report from London