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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Kerry Uncertain Whether Syrian Cease-fire Will Work

by VOA News February 23, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress Tuesday he is uncertain whether a joint U.S.-Russia cease-fire set to take effect in Syria on Saturday will work or lead to a negotiated peace settlement in the war-torn country.

But the top American diplomat said the cease-fire agreed to by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin is the best way to try to end the five-year conflict that has left as many as 470,000 dead according to some estimates. It calls for a halt to fighting, except for continued attacks on Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front fighters .

"If humanitarian assistance flows, if the guns do silence with the exception of the effort against Daesh and Al Nusra on Saturday, if they do, and lives are saved, then that is to the benefit,' Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But he added, 'It doesn't mean that it's automatically going to have a positive outcome in the political process.'

Some Senate lawmakers voiced skepticism that Russia would honor the truce, with Senator Barbara Boxer of California questioning whether the Washington-Moscow pact might turn out to be a 'rope-a-dope deal' with frequent cease-fire violations.

'It may be,' Kerry said.

But he warned, 'Anybody who thinks that there is impunity for violating this... is making a grave mistake. There is a significant discussion taking place now about Plan B if we don't succeed at the table.'

Kerry said that in the last two weeks 114 truckloads of humanitarian aid have been dispatched into areas of Syria that have been cut off by the fighting between Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces trying to overthrow him.

'At least 80,000 people who haven't had supplies in years now have supplies for the next month at least and we have resulted in food in medicine to places that have been under siege for months,' Kerry said.

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