SYRIA will wake to a temporary peace today after a nationwide ceasefire was struck between armed militia and the government.
The deal was announced by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin yesterday and confirmed by Turkey, with both of those countries acting as guarantors.
During a televised meeting, Putin said: “We have just received news that a few hours ago the event we have all been waiting for and working towards has happened.”
Loading article content
The agreement, which began at midnight local time, was also confirmed by the rebel High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which is regarded as the main opposition to President Bashar al-Assad by the UN and covers the entire nation.
However, it does not include Daesh, the group formerly known as the Nusra Front, or other affiliated jihadist organisations. A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which works under the HNC, said it also excludes the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG), which control areas near the Turkish border and are considered terrorists by Ankara.
Peace talks between Assad’s administration and the HNC will now proceed in Kazakhstan within a few weeks.
In an apparent reference to the capture of rebel-held areas of Aleppo earlier this month, the Syrian military said the truce follows “successes achieved by armed forces”.
The breakthrough by government troops ends the opposition’s four-year hold over the neighbourhoods.
The HNC said limited resources meant it is now “not possible to continue” the battle.
Several previous attempts to halt the civil war have failed, but the recent warming of ties between Turkey and Russia may prove to be crucial.
While Russia is a key ally of Assad, Turkey is one of the main backers of the opposition.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said the truce will include 62,000 opposition fighters across Syria, and that the Russian military has established a hotline with its Turkish counterpart to monitor compliance.
Putin, who described the truce as “very fragile” and in need of “a lot of attention”, said he had ordered the Russian military to scale down its presence in Syria but did not specify how many troops and weapons will be withdrawn, adding that Russia will continue “fighting international terrorism in Syria” and supporting Assad.
Russian military will also maintain its presence at both an air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia and the naval facility in the port of Tartus.
MEANWHILE, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria, and all foreigners in combat there to leave.
Fighters from around the world have joined both sides of the Syrian conflict that has so far killed more than quarter a million people, displaced half the country’s population and produced more than four million refugees.
Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Moallem said people from more than 80 countries have joined insurgent groups trying to remove Assad from power, while the Syrian government is backed by others from countries including Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Russia.
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura welcomed the deal.
However, fighting continued yesterday as the deadline loomed. Seven people were injured by a mortar round that fell near a school in Damascus, according to state news agency SANA.
It also reported that two people had been hurt by a mortar round fired by insurgents on the city’s al-Mazraa area, where the Russian embassy is located.
On Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Damascus had been hit by mortar fire, blaming the attack on “extremists” opposed to a peaceful settlement.
It said a mortar round landed in the embassy courtyard without exploding, with another falling close by.
Russian MP Sergei Zheleznyak, a member of the parliament’s international affairs committee, said his country has “again proved its leading role in international peacekeeping activities”, calling the deal “a major diplomatic, military and political success”.