Turkey and Russia broker nationwide ceasefire deal in Syria

Russia, Turkey, the Syrian regime and opposition forces confirm that a nationwide ceasefire will take effect on midnight December 30. The deal will exclude Daesh and ex-Nusra Front.

Photo by: Reuters Archive
Photo by: Reuters Archive

People gather by a Christmas tree near damaged buildings during Christmas eve in al-Hamidiyah neighbourhood in the old city of Homs, Syria, December 24.

The Syrian regime and armed opposition groups have reached a ceasefire agreement, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday. He also signalled Russia's readiness to start peace talks and to withdraw part of their military from Syria. 

The announcement of a nationwide halt to the fighting on December 30 came after meetings between Russia, Turkey and Iran.

"With this agreement, parties have agreed to cease all armed attacks, including aerial, and have promised not to expand the areas they control against each other," Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The ceasefire will be a first step towards continuing the political transition and  negotiations with Russian and Turkish guarantees. Russia forced the Iranian and  Assad regimes to accept the ceasefire and to go to the negotiations," Asaad Hanaa, the Free Syrian Army political officer said on twitter.

What are the terms of the deal?

Turkey's foreign ministry confirmed the ceasefire will take effect at midnight December 30. It further said that Turkey and Russia will act as guarantors of the ceasefire — with Turkey guaranteeing rebel compliance and Russia guaranteeing the Assad regime will adhere to its terms. 

The opposition also agreed. "The National Coalition expresses support for the agreement and urges all parties to abide by it," their spokesperson, Ahmed Ramadan said of the deal.

Putin said that the agreements on Syria are fragile — they require special attention and patience and constant contact among partners.

The Russian president said they worked hard to secure the deal. "Three documents have been signed," Putin said at a meeting with the foreign and defence ministers.

"The first document between the Syrian government and the armed opposition of the ceasefire in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. The second document is a set of measures to monitor the ceasefire regime and the third document is a statement of readiness to start peace negotiations on the Syrian settlement," he said.

Who must abide by this deal?

The truce will include 62,000 opposition fighters across Syria, and the Russian military has established a hotline with its Turkish counterpart to monitor compliance, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

The ceasefire announcement excludes Daesh and ex-Nusra Front, also known as Jabhat Fatah al Sham, according to Russia’s foreign ministry.

The Turkish foreign ministry said it is of great importance that countries with influence on fighting groups support the ceasefire — a reference to Iranian involvement in the conflict. 

Iran-backed militias were not explicitly mentioned in this deal, however the presence of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani's forces in Syria have had a deleterious impact on previous agreements.

What about Russian and US involvement?

Putin also announced a "reduction" of Moscow's forces in Syria.

"I agree with the proposal from the defence ministry for the reduction of our military presence in Syria," the Russian president said in a televised meeting, insisting that Russia would still continue to support Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad. 

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that that President-elect Donald Trump's administration is welcome to join the Syrian peace process once he takes office.

What happens next?

"If the ceasefire is a success, Turkey and Russia will sponsor talks in Kazakhstan," the FSA's Hanna said.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies