Syrian government, opposition bloc agree to two-week 'cessation of hostilities'; Agreement 'sign of hope' to end five-year conflict
Feb 26, 2016 01:03 AM EST
The Syrian government has agreed to the "cessation of hostilities" plan brokered by the United States and Russia. Under the plan, Syria would commit to a two-week ceasefire with the exception of "combat operations" against United Nations-identified terrorist groups including the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front.
President Bashar al-Assad government's administration will work together with Russia to identify which groups and areas will be covered by the ceasefire, which will take effect on Saturday.
According to The World Weekly, the country's borders will be sealed to prevent the entry of foreign support to armed groups. The aim is to prevent these hostile organizations from "strengthening their capabilities or changing their positions" and avoid the collapse of the agreement.
It was reported that Syrian opposition will accede to the two-week truce on Friday noon, and will formally end hostilities on Saturday.
The High Negotiations Committee, a Saudi Arabia-supported coalition opposing the Assad regime, viewed the plan as a "temporary two-week truce as a chance to establish how serious the other side is in committing to the points of the agreement."
Reuters reported theat the High Negotiations Committee expressed concern over the involvement of Russia in the truce as it is a known ally of the Assad government. The opposition fears that the Russian air force might continue to attack rebel groups under the guise of pursuing the al-Nusra Front.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has actively pursued diplomacy over the situation in Syria. As an assurance of Russia's commitment to the deal, its Defense Ministry said the intensity of its air strikes in Syria had decreased significantly in the past few days.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon lauded the plan to cease hostilities in Syria. He expressed his confidence that the agreement would "bring about immediate reduction in violence" and create an environment conducive to peaceful political negotiations.
"It is a long-awaited signal of hope to the Syrian people that after five years of conflict there may be an end to their suffering in sight," Ban said, according to UN News Centre.
The last Syrian peace talks in Geneva earlier this month concluded without progress after a Russian-backed offensive was launched by the Syrian government in Aleppo. The latest bout continued on Wednesday, where the Syrian army and Islamic State fought near Aleppo. The attack led by the jihadist group cut the main land route into the city.
The Syrian conflict has killed 250,000 people and has welled up the refugee crisis in Europe. It has also left over 4.5 million people stuck in hard-to-reach areas without access to humanitarian aid.