UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

US, Russia Announce Cease-fire Plan for Syria

by Pamela Dockins February 22, 2016

The United States and Russia have agreed on plans for a cessation of hostilities in Syria, a move that could pave the way for an expansion of humanitarian aid to besieged cities and set the stage for a resumption of talks on a political transition.

In a joint statement Monday, the U.S. and Russia proposed the cease-fire begin on February 27.

It would apply to all parties in the conflict, with the exception of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra.

The White House said President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone Monday to discuss the agreement.

The joint U.S-Russian statement said a "communication hotline" would be established to help promote and sustain a cease-fire and that a working group, would be set up for an exchange of information, if necessary.

"Over the coming days, we will be working to secure commitments from key parties that they will abide by the terms of this cessation," said Secretary of State John Kerry.

"This is a moment of promise," he said, but added that fulfillment depended on actions.

Syria support group

The U.S. and Russia are co-chairs of a cease-fire task force that is part of the 17-nation International Syria Support Group.

The group met in Munich earlier this month and had hoped to announce an initial ceasefire plan by last Friday.

Word of the potential truce comes a day after Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in Damascus and Homs left over 100 people dead.

Earlier Monday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner condemned the attacks, and said it would take a "united and global effort to destroy this terrorist organization."

Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement the terror attacks need an adequate reaction from the international community.

UN urges all parties to comply

A U.N. spokesman said Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon welcomed the agreement announced by Russia and the U.S. and "strongly urges" all parties to abide by terms of the agreement.

Earlier this month, U.N.-facilitated talks between the Syrian government and opposition broke off, partly due to opposition concerns about the Russian-backed Syrian government's continued bombings around Aleppo.

U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura initially planned to resume talks by February 25 but, last week, the U.N. announced the talks would be further delayed.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his government is ready for a cease-fire, but not if 'terrorists' use it to bolster their positions. He has regularly referred to any opposition fighters as terrorists throughout the conflict that began in March 2011.

Kerry said Assad ally Russia would be speaking with the Syrian government, as well as Iran, while the U.S. would be consulting with opposition groups in order to try to implement the cease-fire.

The main rebel coalition in Syria has said it is willing to accept a temporary truce, but only if Russia calls a halt to its airstrikes and the Syrian government ends its offensive near the Syrian-Turkish border.

Russia has said it will not stop its airstrikes against what it calls terrorist targets in Syria, even if there is international agreement on a temporary truce.

Russian airstrikes

The United States and others involved in trying to end the Syrian civil war say most Russian bombs are directed at rebels fighting the Syrian government, not at Islamic State terrorists.

The Syrian rebel coalition known as the High Negotiations Committee met in Saudi Arabia Saturday and condemned Russia's military action supporting the Damascus government. The coalition said Russia has 'shown disdain for the international community and disregard for the lives of Syrians.'

Russia's airstrikes have been blamed for increasing the war's toll on Syrian civilians, prompting more of them to leave their homes as refugees and try to flee across the border into Turkey.

VOA White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas contributed to this report.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list