Syrian regime and moderate opposition agree to cessation

Syrian opposition groups and Assad regime accept US-Russia proposed cessation of hostilities

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Children eat fruits in Ghazila village in the southern countryside of Hasakah, Syria February 17, 2016.

Syrian opposition groups and the Bashar al Assad regime announced on Tuesday their conditional acceptance of a proposed US-Russian "cessation of hostilities" that is expected to bring them back to the negotiating table in Geneva peace talks to end the civil-war.

The announcement came after international pressure led the United States and Russia to agree on cessation of hostilities that will take effect Saturday.

The acceptance of the cessation of hostilities is conditional to the Assad regime ending its siege of 18 areas, releasing hostages and the cessation of aerial and artillery bombardment, main umbrella for Syrian opposition and rebel groups, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said.

The cessation of hostilities will not cover DAESH, the Nusra Front and any other militias designated as terrorist organisations by the UN Security Council, but the topics of where in Syria must the fighting stop and where counterterrorism operations can continue must still be addressed. And the five-page plan released by the US State Department leaves open how breaches of the cessation deal will be identified or punished.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura suspended the Syria peace talks in Geneva until Feb. 25 as Russia continued to increase aerial bombings along with a large-scale military offensive by the regime. One of the two forces are expected to be behind an air strike attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital that killed dozens of civilians.

Last week, de Mistura was quoted by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet as saying the Syria talks would not resume on Feb. 25 as he had previously hoped, adding that he cannot "realistically" get the parties in the Syrian conflict back to the table by then, "but we intend to do so soon."

The Syrian regime was forced to react after international criticism arose when photos of children suffering from malnutrition in Madaya hit social media and the UN slammed the regime’s besiegement of several towns.

A convoy of 44 trucks from an NGO, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, carrying humanitarian relief last week entered a besieged area of Moadamiyeh in the suburb of Damascus, the Syrian state news agency announced on Monday.

The latest distribution of aid came as Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, began a five-day visit to Syria.

"This is a critical situation at the present moment with millions of people in need and the objective of course of this trip is to scale up our operations and to bring as good as we can more help to Syrian people," Maurer said in statement.

The regime has been criticised globally for being responsible for the birth of the Syrian civil-war, which erupted following a violent crackdown on nationwide protests.

The regime, strictly backed by Russia, has been reported to have used toxic chlorine gas several times over a five-month period in different areas of Syria on civilians.

Russia had also been condemned on an international scale for its excessive killing of civilians, according to a report which said Russia has targeted more than 27 health care centres since September 30, 17 in Aleppo and 10 in Raqqa, killing dozens of civilians.

US President Barack Obama said in November last year during an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Manila that "Assad must go" for the civil war in Syria to end and called on the two main allies of Assad - Russia and Iran, to decide whether they want to "save the Syrian state" or prop up the regime.

Over 8 million Syrians have been internally displaced by the conflict and according to the UN up to 4.5 million people in Syria live in hard-to-reach areas, including nearly 400,000 people in 15 besieged locations who do not have access to aid they urgently need.

TRTWorld and agencies