A tentative ceasefire agreement has been reached between the US and Russia over Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov reached the deal after 13 hours of tense talks in Geneva.
Both were quick to temper expectations, with Kerry describing the deal as “an opportunity, and not more than that until it becomes a reality.”
The ceasefire will come into effect from sunset on Monday, marking the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Rebel groups recently broke the stranglehold placed on Aleppo by Syrian Government forces, although government forces have responded by intensifying air attacks on rebel held areas.
The Syrian Air Force has been criticised by observers for attacks which have hit hospitals and other protected facilities. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria is currently investigating several suspected chlorine gas attacks believed to have been perpetrated by government forces. In August a team of international inspectors found that the government and forces allied to IS had been responsible for a string of chemical weapon attacks in 2014 and 2015.
Turning Point for Syria
If successful the ceasefire is expected to pave the way for a future US-Russia deal to carry out joint airstrikes against extremist groups including Islamic State militants, the al-Nusra Front and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group.
John Kerry said the deal marked a “turning point, a moment of change” for the advancement of peace in Syria.
The agreement was met with praise by Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, who called the ceasefire a “real window of opportunity”
Humanitarian workers plan to use the ceasefire to deliver much-needed aid to the some 275,000 civilians trapped in the Eastern rebel held area.
In peace time Aleppo was Syria’s second most populous city, and a centre of industry. The city has been locked in war since 2012, and Amnesty International has accused both sides of war crimes making life “increasingly unbearable” for civilians.
The conflict in Syria has injured over 250,000 and is believed to have displaced over 11 million people.