U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced a semi-ceasefire which is being referred to as a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria Friday between the U.S., Russia and other major powers negotiating over the Syrian civil war.
A commitment on the part of Russia to cease its bombing campaign in Syria was noticeably absent from the agreement reached in Munich, Germany. The powers are hoping that an official ceasefire of hostilities across the board will begin “within a week,” but the agreement is so far focused on providing increased humanitarian aid to the Syrian civilians living in areas currently under siege.
“Humanitarian access will commence this week to besieged areas, and an ISSG [International Syria Support Group] task force will within one week elaborate modalities for a nationwide cessation of hostilities,” says the official statement from the powers.
The statement notes that humanitarian aid “should not benefit any particular group over any other, but shall be granted by all sides to all people in need.” It also outlines several cities which will receive direct aid, although the besieged city of Aleppo was noticeably absent.
Russia and Syria engaged in a focused campaign against Aleppo last week, effectively cutting off supply routes of opposition forces. The escalation took place during last week’s talks between the opposition forces High Negotiations Committee (HNC) and representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and effectively imploded the negotiations.
According tot the text of the agreement, attacks on ISIS, Nusra Front and other “groups designated as terrorist organizations” will still be permitted.
“We welcome the efforts our friends making to bring relief to the Syrian people – and it must be all Syrians. We must see action on the ground and if we see action and implementation we will see you soon in Geneva,” says Salem al-Meset, spokesman for the HNC.
The ISSG announcement comes just under one day after Saudi Arabia reaffirmed its commitment to send ground troops into Syria, possibly in coordination with Turkey. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded later the same day by warning that failure to negotiate successfully over the Syrian issue could spawn a “new world war.”
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