Russia, America reach “ceasefire truce”, Assad regime accepts
The Syrian government says it accepts a plan by Russia and the United States for a ‘cessation of hostilities’ between regime forces and rebels.
Damascus stressed the importance of sealing the borders and halting foreign support for armed groups and “preventing these organisations from strengthening their capabilities or changing their positions, in order to avoid what may lead to wrecking this agreement”.
The Syrian military, backed by Russian air strikes since September, also reserved the right to “respond to any breach by these groups against Syrian citizens or against its armed forces”, a government statement added.
The main, Saudi-backed Syrian opposition body said it too “consented to” the international efforts, but stressed that acceptance of a truce was conditional on an end to blockades of rebel-held areas, free access for humanitarian aid, a release of detainees, and a halt to air strikes against civilians.
The opposition High Negotiations Committee also said it did not expect President Assad, Russia, or Iran to cease hostilities.
The partial truce, due to take effect on Saturday, excludes the al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front and ISIL.
People in Damascus are torn between hope and resignation.
“I hope it is accomplished and that Syrian people feel safe and that blood stops flowing,” said senior citizen Adnan Hamdoun..
“There cannot be a political solution with the bombardment,” was the view of retired judge Adnan Tabnaj.
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) February 23, 2016
While parts of the capital look a million miles from a war zone, with people out shopping and queues of traffic on the streets, a sobering statistic highlights the horror of five years of war.
The number of dead in the conflict is now estimated at more than 370,000, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Tuesday, raising its toll for documented deaths to more than 270,000.
The Observatory said it could not document all deaths for reasons including secrecy over casualties on the part of the warring sides, and difficulties in reaching some areas.