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US, Russia announce Syria ceasefire to begin Saturday

© Alexander Kots, Komsomolskaya Pravda, AFP | Russian air force pilots and technicians checking a Russian Sukhoi Su-30 jet fighter at the Hmeimim airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia on October 5, 2015.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-02-23

A landmark "cessation of hostilities" deal will take effect in Syria on February 27, the US and Russia announced Monday, but the deal does not apply to the Islamic State group or al-Nusra Front jihadist groups, and strikes against them will continue.

The leading opposition group in the five-year conflict gave its conditional acceptance to Monday's announcement but analysts warned any pause in the fighting would be dependent on Russia, Iran and President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria's main opposition said it would accept the ceasefire deal only if humanitarian "conditions" were met. The Riyadh-based High Negotiations Committee said in a statement that it "agreed to respond positively to international efforts to reach a truce deal".

'A cessation of hostilities, not a truce'

But its "commitment to the truce is conditional" on the lifting of sieges, release of prisoners, a halt to bombardment of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The announcement came a day after the deadliest jihadist attack in Syria's brutal civil war, with 134 people -- mostly civilians -- killed in a series of blasts near Damascus.

In a joint statement, Washington and Moscow said the partial truce would begin at midnight Damascus time (10pm GMT on Friday), suspending a vicious conflict that has left more than 260,000 people dead and seen half the population displaced.

"If implemented and adhered to, this cessation will not only lead to a decline in violence, but also continue to expand the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian supplies to besieged areas and support a political transition to a government that is responsive to the desires of the Syrian people," US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

US President Barack Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin discussed the deal by phone.

"I'm convinced that the joint actions agreed with the American side are able to radically transform the crisis situation in Syria," Putin said in a special address broadcast on television.

Putin added that Moscow would do "whatever is necessary" to ensure that Damascus respects the ceasefire agreement, adding: "We are counting on the United States to do the same with its allies and the groups that it supports."

Putin said the United States and Russia were "ready to put in place an effective control mechanism" to ensure respect of the ceasefire, adding that a "direct line of communication will be created as well as, if necessary, a working group to exchange information".

"All fighting groups should confirm to us, or to the United States, their commitment to this truce," Putin said of the deal.

But "with regard to the al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State and other terrorist groups recognised as such by the UN, a ceasefire is totally excluded. The strikes against them will continue", he added.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

Date created : 2016-02-22

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