Syria opposition to respect ceasefire ‘for two weeks’
Syria’s main opposition grouping said Wednesday it would respect a provisional ceasefire in Syria “for two weeks,” ahead of the proposed start of the truce this weekend.
“The High Negotiations Committee believes a provisional truce for two weeks would provide a chance to determine the commitment of the other side” to the ceasefire, the group said in a statement.
Syria’s UN ambassador also said Wednesday his government is working with close ally Russia to identify the groups and areas to be covered by the cessation of hostilities that is scheduled to take effect at midnight local time on Friday.
Bashar Ja’afari told the UN Security Council on Wednesday it is very important to “control the boundaries,” especially the Syria-Turkish border.
Ja’afari, who is the chief Syrian government negotiator at peace talks, said this is essential to halt support by some countries for “terrorist organizations” that are escalating the conflict and undermining a political solution.
Syria’s government considers all armed opposition groups as “terrorists.” The proposed truce will not include ISIS or the Nusra Front, but the 18 nations that have agreed on a roadmap to peace in Syria have not yet agreed on a list of other “terrorist organizations” that will also continue to be targeted.
Saudi speaks on Syrian people’s hopes
Meanwhile, Saudi King Salman said on Wednesday that his country was keen to see the “aspirations” of the Syrian people fulfilled after he received detailed proposals of a US-Russian agreement on a Syria ceasefire from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.
King Salman also said he backed a political solution in accordance to Geneva I, an initial round of talks held in the Swiss city in 2012.
The Geneva Communiqué I, which laid out a six-point plan to stop the violence in Syria, calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body that would “exercise full executive powers,” a proposal not welcomed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
He also said a ceasefire must guarantee that aid will reach Syrians in dire need.
King Salman made his statements after Putin spoke with him in a telephone conversation, the Kremlin said.
“The King of Saudi Arabia welcomed the agreements reached and expressed his readiness to work jointly with Russia to make them work,” the Kremlin said. The two sides agreed to continue contacts on this matter, it added.
Assad also has assured Putin of his government’s readiness to respect a ceasefire deal brokered by Moscow and Washington, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.
The Kremlin said the two leaders discussed the deal in a phone call and that Assad noted that the proposals laid out in the agreement were an “important step in the direction of a political settlement.”
The Kremlin also said later that Putin discussed the ceasefire deal with the leaders of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Putin, whose air force is flying a bombing campaign to support Assad’s troops on the ground, on Monday pledged to do “whatever is necessary” to get Damascus to uphold the deal after sealing the agreement with U.S. President Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that it may be difficult to keep Syria whole if it takes much longer to end the fighting after Syria’s regime agreed in the same day to the ceasefire deal announced by the United States and Russia.
Syria’s regime and opposition agreed Tuesday to the ceasefire deal announced a day earlier by the United States and Russia, aimed at halting its nearly five-year civil war.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said Syrian Kurdish militia forces must remain outside the scope of a ceasefire agreed between Syria’s warring parties, just like ISIS and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front.
US, Russian officials to meet
US and Russian officials will meet in coming days to form a task force to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire, Kerry said Wednesday.
Kerry told US lawmakers he had spoken to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov earlier in the day about measures to oversee the truce, which is due to come into effect early on Saturday.
“I talked this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov and we have a team that will be meeting in the next day or so — the task force for the ceasefire, cessation of hostilities,” he said.
“I’m not here to vouch that it’s absolutely going to work, but this is the one way that we can end this war,” he warned.
“The alternative is that the war gets worse, that Syria might be totally destroyed, not able to be put back together again.”