World powers agree on 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria

Diplomats from 17 countries at Munich meeting agree on 'cessation of hostilities' and expanding delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura (L-R) arrive for a news conference after the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Munich, Germany, February 12, 20.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that an international meeting of foreign ministers had agreed to implement a "cessation of hostilities" and to immediately accelerate and expand the delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria.

Diplomats from 17 countries meeting in Munich agreed "to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities to begin in a target of one week's time," he said.

They also agreed to immediately "accelerate and expand" humanitarian aid to the war-torn country.

"Sustained delivery will begin this week, first to the areas where it is most urgently needed... and then to all the people in need throughout the country, particularly in the besieged and hard to reach areas," Kerry said.

Kerry, together with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and the UN special envoy mediating the Syrian peace talks Staffan de Mistura, acknowledged that the Munich meeting produced commitments on paper only.

He and Lavrov agreed that the "real test" will be whether all the sides involved in the Syrian conflict honour those commitments. 

Kerry also said peace talks between rebels and the Syrian government would resume in Geneva "as soon as possible.”

Geneva peace talks had been suspended until Feb 25. shortly after its start at the end of January as Russia continued air strikes against the opposition while, Bashar al Assad regime kept sieges on opposition held towns, leaving tens of thousands of Syrians starving.

The Syrian main opposition group welcomed the plan agreed in Munich, the group’s spokesman Salim al Muslat told reporters.  

However, he warned that the agreement must be shown to be effective before the opposition would return to peace talks with the Syrian regime in Geneva.

"If we see action and implementation, we will see you very soon in Geneva," Al Muslat said. 

Last week, more than 50,000 Syrians fled across the Turkish border north of Aleppo, following heavy Russian air strikes and reports of Syrian regime forces and its allies making gains in Aleppo's northern countryside, cutting opposition supply lines to Turkey. 

Syrians wait with their belongings before heading to Turkey through the Bab Al-Salam border crossing, in Darat Izza, Aleppo countryside, Syria, February 10, 2016.

Turkey already hosts more than 2.5 million of over 4.5 million Syrian refugees who fled the country since the war started in 2011.

The war has claimed over 260,000 lives and dislaced more than half of the country's population.

Turkey’s Prime Ministry Disaster & Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) released data on Tuesday revealing that over 13 million Syrians have benefited from humanitarian aid since the start of the war in the country 2011.

TRTWorld, Reuters