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A humanitarian ceasefire in eastern Ghouta has broken down nearly as soon as it started. The UN is urging warring parties to allow aid into devastated areas. Syrian regime warplanes and artillery bombed eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, despite a Russian-brokered ceasefire in the rebel-held enclave. Damascus and Moscow said rebels shelled an evacuation route opened to allow civilians to leave eastern Ghouta. The UN said the fighting made it impossible to remove civilians or provide aid. "We have reports this morning there is continuous fighting in eastern Ghouta," U.N. humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said. "Clearly the situation on the ground is not such that convoys can go in or medical evacuations can go out." Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a daily five-hour "humanitarian pause" to airstrikes in eastern Ghouta. Moscow said it would only go into effect if rebels ceased attacks. The renewed fighting comes amid calls from the international community to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities as the humanitarian situation worsens on the ground. Read more: Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria's eastern Ghouta? What the ceasefire entails: The five-hour cessation of hostilities was planned for 9 a.m to 2 p.m. local time (1200 UTC). The ceasefire is aimed at establishing a "humanitarian corridor" to allow civilians to exit from eastern Ghouta, considered one of Syria's last rebel strongholds. In agreement with the Syrian regime, the Russian Defense Ministry said it will help evacuate the sick and injured Read more: What foreign powers want from the Syrian war Massive casualties: Over the past week, more than 500 civilians have been killed by the Syrian government's latest offensive in eastern Ghouta. Russian warplanes formed an integral part of the offensive, according to independent monitors, rights groups and US authorities. Why now: As the conflict winds down, Damascus is attempting to consolidate territory across the country with the help of Russia to secure its interests during peace talks. Given that eastern Ghouta is one of the last remaining rebel strongholds, the Syrian regime is seeking to strike a fatal blow to the opposition movement before peace talks gain ground. Calls for ceasefire: With a growing civilian death toll, the international community has urged all warring parties to enact a nationwide ceasefire. On Saturday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire. Better than nothing: Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres, responded to the announcement, saying: "Five hours is better than no hours, but we would like to see any cessation of hostilities be extended." Russia "can end" the violence: US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged Russia to use its "influence" to end the fighting. "The United States calls for an immediate end to offensive operations and urgent access for humanitarian workers to treat the wounded and deliver badly needed humanitarian aid," Nauert tweeted late Monday. "Russia has the influence to stop these operations if it chooses to live up to its obligations under the #UNSC ceasefire." Seven-year war: More than 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 2011 following a government crackdown on protesters calling for the release of political prisoners and for President Bashar Assad to step down. Since then, the conflict has evolved into a multifaceted war, drawing in global superpowers, neighboring countries and non-state actors. Read more: The search for dead Russian mercenaries in Syria

A humanitarian ceasefire in eastern Ghouta has broken down nearly as soon as it started. The UN is urging warring parties to allow aid into devastated areas. Syrian regime warplanes and artillery bombed eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, despite a Russian-brokered ceasefire in the rebel-held enclave. Damascus and Moscow said rebels shelled an evacuation route opened to allow civilians to leave ... Read More »

Aleppo evacuation back on, say rebel sources

Violence restarted in war-ravaged Aleppo, hours after a failed deal to evacuate civilians. Syrian rebel forces said evacuations from Aleppo are expected to begin "within hours." A military spokesman for the Nour al-Din al Zinki rebel group told news agency Reuters on Wednesday that "an agreement has been reached and within the coming hours its implementation will begin." Officials from the Jabha Shamiya rebel group said the evacuations from Aleppo are expected to begin around 6 a.m. local time (0400 UTC) on Thursday. After Wednesday morning's truce agreement stalled, the new deal included the evacuation of civilians from two rebel-held Shiite areas in the Idlib province outside of Aleppo. Syrian military officials, however, sent mixed messages concerning the truce. Initially, a pro-Damascus military official confirmed the deal, saying that 15,000 people from the Idlib villages of Foua and Kefraya would be evacuated, in return for the evacuation of "militants and their families and whoever wants to leave among civilians" from Aleppo's rebel enclaves. A second military source denied the development, however, saying that negotiations were ongoing. Meanwhile the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said hostilities in Aleppo were yet to cease. "Bombing is ongoing, no one can move. Everyone is hiding and terrified," Syrian activist Mohammad al-Khatib said. "The wounded and dead are lying in the street. No one dares to try and retrieve the bodies." The deal was also thrown into doubt after a military media unit run by Hezbollah, Lebanon's armed Shiite group and ally of Assad, said "the negotiations are seeing big complications, in light of tension and operations on the front lines." Aleppo ceasefire deal derails Evacuations were initially scheduled to begin on Wednesday morning after a ceasefire deal was reached between Russia, Assad's main coalition ally, and Turkey, a leading backer of rebel forces. The deal faltered, however, after Syrian military forces resumed heavy shelling on Wednesday. Residents who turned up at agreed meeting points to evacuate the city Wednesday morning were turned away by pro-government forces manning the checkpoints. "People have left their shelters .... to be ready for the evacuation. I can't describe it," Mohammed Abu Jaafar, head of forensics in eastern Aleppo said. "Since the morning, they started to target the areas where people have gathered ... These people were walking to the crossings designated for exit." On Wednesday, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the shelling by Syrian government forces and their allies "most likely constitutes war crimes." Syrian Pressident Basahr al-Assad defended the offensive, claiming that the latest lull in the fighting was part of a Western plan, aimed at stopping his government's advance in the city. Assad told Russian TV on Wednesday that the truce would "keep the terrorists and save them." Turkish officials are scheduled to meet with Russian and Iranian counterparts on December 27 to discuss a political solution to the conflict. "We are striving to secure a ceasefire throughout the country and for negotiations for a political solution to start," Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said on Wednesday.

Violence restarted in war-ravaged Aleppo, hours after a failed deal to evacuate civilians. Syrian rebel forces said evacuations from Aleppo are expected to begin “within hours.” A military spokesman for the Nour al-Din al Zinki rebel group told news agency Reuters on Wednesday that “an agreement has been reached and within the coming hours its implementation will begin.” Officials from ... Read More »

Russia, China block UN resolution for Aleppo ceasefire

Moscow has rejected the UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire, citing a pending agreement with Washington, a Russian official said. But an American diplomat described the claim as a "made up alibi." Russia and China on Monday blocked a UN Security Council resolution aimed at establishing a seven-day ceasefire in the besieged city of Aleppo in Syria. Sponsored by Egypt, Spain and New Zealand, the resolution demanded that conflicting parties in Aleppo cease "any and all attacks in the city of Aleppo." Russia, a key ally to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, expressed doubts over the text in the run-up to the vote. Moscow had called for the vote to take place on Tuesday to give time for Russian and American officials to meet in Geneva. The meeting reportedly concerns a deal to allow rebels in the besieged city to withdraw, which Syrian opposition forces have outright rejected. Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, said that Washington and Moscow "are close to an agreement on the basic elements." 'Made up alibi' However, deputy US envoy Michele Sison said that Churkin's claim of an agreement was a "made up alibi." "We will not let Russia string along the Security Council while waiting for a compromise that never seems to come," Sison said. "We will continue bilateral negotiations (with Russia) to relieve the suffering in Aleppo, but we have no reached a breakthrough because Russia wants to keep its military gains." Moscow has blocked a total of six Security Council resolutions on Syria, while Beijing has vetoed five. Russian forces joined the multifaceted conflict in September 2015, launching airstrikes against terrorist groups in a bid to strengthen Assad's regime. However, US-backed opposition forces have been targeted in the aerial campaign, according to rebel groups. More than 300,000 people have been killed and half the population displaced since the conflict erupted in 2011, when government forces launched a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters calling for Assad to step down.

Moscow has rejected the UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire, citing a pending agreement with Washington, a Russian official said. But an American diplomat described the claim as a “made up alibi.” Russia and China on Monday blocked a UN Security Council resolution aimed at establishing a seven-day ceasefire in the besieged city of Aleppo in Syria. Sponsored by ... Read More »

UN announces agreement on 72-hour Yemen ceasefire

The UN has announced that all warring parties in Yemen have agreed to a three-day ceasefire, due to start on Wednesday night. International pressure is rising after the failure of several previous truce efforts. The announcement came a day after the United States, Britain and the United Nation's peace envoy to Yemen urged the warring parties in the country's two-year civil war to declare a ceasefire they said could start within days. UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he had been in contact with the lead negotiator for the rebel Houthi militia, as well as the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which operates from the southern city of Aden. Late Monday, he released a statement saying he had received assurances from all Yemeni parties for a ceasefire to begin at 23:59 Yemen time on Wednesday, for an initial period of 72 hours, subject to renewal. "The president agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire to be extended if the other party adheres to it," Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalik al-Mekhlafi wrote on Twitter. He added that Houthi rebels, who control the capital Sanaa, would also need to activate a truce observing committee and end their siege of the country's third city, Taiz. Earlier Monday, Saudi Arabia - which is leading a military coalition in support of Hadi - also agreed to a new ceasefire. New pressure after funeral bombing The Saudis have faced heavy criticism following an airstrike earlier this month on a funeral gathering in Sanaa which killed 140 people. The airstrike, which the coalition blamed on "mistaken information" from its Yemeni allies, killed a number of prominent political figures, drawing condemnation from the UN and prompting the US to announce a review of its assistance to the coalition. Monday's announcements also follow the firing of missiles at the American destroyer USS Mason in the Red Sea off the war-ravaged country on Saturday, which analysts said came from Houthi-controlled territory. The rebels have denied the attacks. The Iran-backed Houthis, who are also supported by troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have taken control of much of northern and western Yemen. The Pentagon said it was "still assessing" what had happened during the third such incident over the past week. The US launched retaliatory strikes against three radar stations in Houthi-controlled areas after the first two attacks. The Yemen conflict has killed almost 6,900 people and displaced at least 3 million since March last year, according to UN figures.

The UN has announced that all warring parties in Yemen have agreed to a three-day ceasefire, due to start on Wednesday night. International pressure is rising after the failure of several previous truce efforts. The announcement came a day after the United States, Britain and the United Nation’s peace envoy to Yemen urged the warring parties in the country’s two-year ... Read More »

Syrian regime, Russia tighten siege on Aleppo

Rebel-held districts of the northern Syrian city have again come under intense air and artillery fire. Syria's army has also seized ground north of Aleppo, although the latest reports suggest rebels are retaliating. At least 45 civilians were killed during renewed airstrikes on Aleppo early on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group. The fierce aerial bombardment from Russian and Syrian warplanes has toppled several buildings in the besieged northern Syrian city. The monitors warned that the death toll was likely to rise because a number of people remained trapped under rubble. "There are planes in the sky now," Ammar al Selmo, the head of the Civil Defense rescue service in the opposition-held east, told the Reuters news agency on Saturday morning. Harrowing scenes A correspondent for the French news agency Agence France-Presse described one airstrike, at a market in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood, which left seven people dead and multiple body parts strewn at the site. Medics said that they were carrying out many amputations to try to save the wounded and that supplies of blood and IV drips were running out. Syrian forces and allied militia pushed on with their latest ground offensive following the failure of a US-Russian brokered ceasefire on Monday. Analysts said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's decision to launch an all-out assault on the last big urban area still in rebel hands marked a turning point in a conflict that was stalemated for years. Around 250,000 civilians are thought to remain trapped in eastern districts. On Friday, at least 47 people were killed in heavy bombing, among them seven children, according to the Observatory, which described large-scale destruction in several rebel-held eastern areas. This week's death toll has now reached at least 180, the observer group said. Civilians remain trapped Residents and activists described the use of a missile that produced earthquake-like tremors upon impact and razed buildings right down to basement level, where many residents desperately seek protection during bombing. The UN children's agency UNICEF said the attacks had left nearly two million people without water. Meanwhile, Syrian forces seized ground north of Aleppo on Saturday, capturing the Palestinian refugee camp of Handarat, which had been in rebel hands for years. "Handarat has fallen," an official with one of the main Aleppo rebel groups told Reuters. "The shelling and the raids did not stop. It is continuous," Bahaa al-Halabi, an activist in the east of the city, told the German news agency dpa. Later on Saturday, rebels said they had recovered some or all of Handarat, while UK-based observers of the conflict said the battle was ongoing. Condemnation from international community A spokesman for United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "appalled by the chilling military escalation" in Aleppo. In a statement, Ban warned that the use of bunker bust bombs and other advanced munitions against civilians may amount to war crimes. The UN head also considers this "a dark day for the global commitment to protect civilians." But Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told the UN General Assembly on Saturday that he was confident of a military victory, because the army was making "great strides in its war against terrorism" on the ground, with help of "the true friends of the Syrian people" - Russia, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah. The Syrian government calls any individuals or groups fighting to overthrow the Assad regime "terrorists," including opposition groups backed by Western powers. Speaking in Boston before a meeting with his counterparts from the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy, United States Secretary of State John Kerry said: "What is happening in Aleppo today is unacceptable. It's beyond the pale." The top US diplomat had strong words for the Russian-backed Syrian regime. "If people are serious about wanting a peaceful outcome to this war then they should cease and desist bombing innocent women and children, cease cutting off water and laying siege in medieval terms to an entire community."

Rebel-held districts of the northern Syrian city have again come under intense air and artillery fire. Syria’s army has also seized ground north of Aleppo, although the latest reports suggest rebels are retaliating. At least 45 civilians were killed during renewed airstrikes on Aleppo early on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group. The ... Read More »

New ceasefire in Donbass proves fragile hours after starting

Residents of the town of Avdiivka, near Donetsk, are skeptical about the new ceasefire in eastern Ukraine that began on Thursday. Shortly after going into effect, it was broken at least twice. "Last night was hot," a Ukrainian serviceman at a military base near Avdiivka told DW on Thursday morning. Avdiivka is a government-controlled town in eastern Ukraine, a stone's throw from the pro-Russian separatist city of Donetsk. A day earlier, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Ukrainian and French counterparts Pavlo Klimkin and Jean-Marc Ayrault announced that a ceasefire in Donbass would go into effect starting at midnight on Thursday. The ceasefire is set to last for a week, but Ukrainian soldiers are skeptical. "Which one is that in a row of recent ceasefires?" asked a serviceman who was deployed to the base several months ago. "None of the previous ceasefires has borne any fruit," he said. During the past few nights, the serviceman said shells had been collected from all kinds of weapons, including those believed to have been pulled back. Ceasefire violated at least twice Over the last month, Avdiivka, which had a pre-war population of 35,000 people, has remained a hot spot, with both the Ukrainian army and rebels using large-caliber weapons in daily fighting. Just two days before the ceasefire, the militants were using 122mm and 152mm artillery. Implementation of large-caliber weapons is a violation of the Minsk Protocol of September 2014, which was signed by Ukrainian, Russian and rebel representatives and called for the end of fighting in eastern Ukraine. Aside from small arms, grenade launchers and mortars, militants have also used tanks. The shelling hit many houses and ruined numerous monuments at the Avdiivka cemetery. At 11 p.m. on September 14, an hour before the ceasefire went into effect, it was not yet quiet around the town, Ukrainian servicemen said. This information was also confirmed by the rebel-controlled Donetsk media. After a short break at midnight, the shelling resumed, Ukrainian media reported Thursday morning. According to different reports, two to four shellings were recorded in Avdiivka after the start of the ceasefire. Residents pessimistic Like many other servicemen at the Avdiivka military base, Alexander, who volunteered for the Ukrainian army, doesn't believe that the ceasefire will hold. "There is an OSCE surveillance camera on the roof of our base that must record shellings. But during the most severe fighting it stops working for some reason or turns in an opposite direction," he told DW. Avdiivka residents are also pessimistic. Elena and her family live in an apartment block on the outskirts of town. Only one section in their house has remained undamaged, other apartments are missing windows and walls as a result of shellings and are unfit for living. "Another ceasefire? This is already laughable," the woman said. She has every reason to be skeptical. The previous ceasefire in Donbass was announced on September 1, but failed to hold even a few days.

Residents of the town of Avdiivka, near Donetsk, are skeptical about the new ceasefire in eastern Ukraine that began on Thursday. Shortly after going into effect, it was broken at least twice. “Last night was hot,” a Ukrainian serviceman at a military base near Avdiivka told DW on Thursday morning. Avdiivka is a government-controlled town in eastern Ukraine, a stone’s ... Read More »

‘Critical hours’ for Syria’s Aleppo, says Kerry

Russia says it is pressing for "silence" in Aleppo after being urged by the US to help end the carnage in Syria's northern hub. Top diplomats are in Geneva, trying to salvage a February ceasefire. A senior Russian official in Syria has urged "all sides" to support a fresh peace initiative as US Secretary of State John Kerry consults Arab ministers and UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva. The head of Russia's coordination center in Syria, Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko told Russian news agencies Sunday that talks were underway to establish a "regime of silence" in Aleppo. Rebel-held areas were hit by air strikes after rebels reportedly shelled government-held western areas of the city, according to monitors. Syrian Observatory monitors on Sunday claimed that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad had dropped barrel bombs from aircraft on Castello Road, the only escape route for civilians from Aleppo. At least 253 civilians, including 49 children, have been killed in divided Aleppo sine April 22, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Assad's military said a "regime of calm" or lull applied - with the exception of Aleppo - in Damascus and some of its outskirts, as well as parts of the northwestern coastal province of Latakia. 'War crimes,' says Saudi Arabia Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, while en route to meet Kerry in Geneva on Monday, accused the regime of Assad of committing "war crimes" in Aleppo. Also in Geneva, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said the situation in Aleppo - once Syria's thriving northern hub - was "quite alarming." "It's an entire package - the cessation of hostilities, the resumption of negotiations, and the humanitarian access," Judeh said. "All three" had to be acted on simultaneously, he said. Russia's cooperation required Arriving in Geneva, Kerry said the UN Security Council resolutions called for a "countrywide" cessation and access for humanitarian aid convoys. "Obviously that hasn't happened and isn't happening," Kerry said, adding that "these are critical hours" requiring Russian cooperation. "It's a test for the Russians and for the regime, as well as the Syrian opposition," Toner said, referring to talks Kerry had held in recent days. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who with Kerry forged the February ceasefire, was not expected this time in Geneva. Opposition groups want truce as 'bloc' Numerous rebel groups rejected the regime's rhetoric, saying any truce must include all areas of fighting stipulated under the February deal as "one bloc." Excluded from the February deal were jihadist groups such as "Islamic State" and the al-Nusra Front, which remain targeted. Social media tag On social media, a hashtag #AleppoIsBurning has emerged, with protests planned this week. In Lebanon, which hosts more than a million Syrian refugees, a weekend demonstration saw protestors wearing white helmets marked "Civil Defence" to remind the world of rescue workers in devastated Aleppo. Last week, even medical centers were struck.

Russia says it is pressing for “silence” in Aleppo after being urged by the US to help end the carnage in Syria’s northern hub. Top diplomats are in Geneva, trying to salvage a February ceasefire. A senior Russian official in Syria has urged “all sides” to support a fresh peace initiative as US Secretary of State John Kerry consults Arab ... Read More »

Syrian ceasefire breached nine times in 24 hours: Russia

Moscow blamed the violations, including an attack on the Turkish border, on moderate rebels and "terrorist organizations." Saudi Arabia says Syrian or Russian warplanes have been active in Aleppo and Hama provinces. "Over the past 24 hours, nine instances of violations of cessation of hostilities have been uncovered," Russia's defense ministry said on Sunday, citing its coordination center at the Hmeimim airbase in Syria. The ceasefire was, on the whole, being implemented, it added, but "there are a number of violations by groups of 'moderate' opposition and units of international terrorist organizations." An attack on the town of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey was highlighted by the ministry. A group of up to 100 fighters, it said, crossed the border from Turkey, then mounted an attack on the northern part of Tal Abyad. The ministry added they were acting in unison with other fighters. "The activities of the armed groups were supported by artillery fire from Turkish territory," the chief of the coordination centre, Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko, said in a televised address. Turkey has said it would not be bound by the landmark ceasefire deal, which went into effect on Friday night, if its national security was threatened Russia also said Damascus was shelled six times Saturday, adding that the attack came from territory controlled by moderate rebels including Eastern Ghouta, east of the capital. Riyadh blames Moscow Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia accused the Syrian regime and Moscow of their own "ceasefire violations." Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir insisted that Russia was targeting Syrian "moderate opposition" groups. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that several air strikes hit central and northern Syria on Sunday, blaming Syrian or Russia warplanes. The ceasefire agreement does not include territory held by the "Islamic State" (IS) jihadist group and Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, which together control more than half of the war-ravaged country. Russia insisted on Saturday it had halted bombing in all areas covered by the truce, but has vowed to keep striking 'IS' and Al-Nusra and other "terrorist groups." Reports of shelling in Latakia Syria's state news agency said on Sunday "terrorist groups" fired dozens of mortars into rural areas of the country's coastal Latakia province. It quoted a local source saying that the shelling, which came from hills close to the Turkish border where the Al-Nusra Front were deployed, caused a number of casualties. But a Syrian rebel group denied those reports, saying its fighters were committed to the US-Russian ceasefire deal. Fadi Ahmad, spokesman for the First Coastal Division, an FSA group operating in the rural Latakia area, said helicopters had dropped six barrel bombs and fired dozens of rockets in the area on Sunday, but that the Al-Nusra Front had no presence in the area targeted by government forces. Washington calls for calm Meanwhile, a senior US official called on all participants to give peace a chance, Agence France-Presse reported. "Setbacks are inevitable," the unnamed official said. "Even under the best of circumstances, we don't expect the violence to end immediately. In fact, we are certain that there will continue to be fighting, in part because of organizations like 'IS' and Al Nusra." "But it is in all of our interests, and especially the interests of the Syrian people, to give this process a chance. This is a real opportunity to reduce the violence the Syrian people have endured for far too long."

Moscow blamed the violations, including an attack on the Turkish border, on moderate rebels and “terrorist organizations.” Saudi Arabia says Syrian or Russian warplanes have been active in Aleppo and Hama provinces. “Over the past 24 hours, nine instances of violations of cessation of hostilities have been uncovered,” Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday, citing its coordination center at the ... Read More »

‘World will be watching,’ Obama warns Russia ahead of Syria ceasefire

Hours before a partial ceasefire is due to be implemented in Syria US President Barack Obama has warned Russia and Damascus that the "world will be watching." There are looming doubts over the success of the truce. Speaking Washington on Thursday, Barack Obama said the "cessation of hostilities" that is due to take effect at midnight on Friday "is a potential step in bringing about an end to the chaos" in Syria. Under the new ceasefire agreement, international powers would be allowed to continue their operations against the so-called "Islamic State" IS, as well as the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and other jihadist organizations. Obama admitted, however, that: "even under the best of circumstances we do not expect the violence to end immediately." "In fact, I think we are certain that there will continue to be fighting," the president said, making particular reference to IS militants. US officials also expect Russian and Syrian forces to breach the truce. "There's pessimism, not expectation - pessimism," a senior US official told AFP news agency. 'Crucial day' Obama's comments on Thursday came hours after UN's Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura said that Friday was going to be a "crucial day." Seventeen nations backing Syria's peace process were due to meet in the Swiss city of Geneva on Friday to negotiate further details in the ceasefire. De Mistura is also set to announce a date for a new round of talks between Syria's warring parties. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his forces and their Russian Russia would have to continue their strikes against the jihadists, but the truce would be off if foreign countries supplied rebels with arms or if anti-government fighters used the truce to rearm themselves. Opposition leaders initially set the period of the ceasefire for two weeks. Doubts over success The complex nature of the Syrian war and different interests of the participants have cast serious doubt on the ceasefire's success. Syria's Kurdish militia, YPG, told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday that it would halt its fire - but would respond if attacked. Turkey, which considers YPG an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), has said it will consider the truce broken if it were threatened by the so-called "Islamic State" or the YPG. If successfully implemented, the ceasefire could see the end of Syria's five-year civil war that has killed more than 260,000 people and forced millions to flee.

Hours before a partial ceasefire is due to be implemented in Syria US President Barack Obama has warned Russia and Damascus that the “world will be watching.” There are looming doubts over the success of the truce. Speaking Washington on Thursday, Barack Obama said the “cessation of hostilities” that is due to take effect at midnight on Friday “is a ... Read More »

Syrian opposition supports two-week ceasefire

Syria's opposition has indicated that it is ready for a two-week truce in Syria. The UN hopes to implement the "cessation of hostilities" discussed by Russia and the US in a matter of days. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said it "views a temporary two-week truce as a chance to establish how serious the other side is in committing to the points of the agreement." The committee, which groups political and armed opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, added however that there was a detailed list criticisms which needed to be addressed before any truce could work. One of the opposition's main concerns is Russia's role as a guarantor of the truce. The HNC argues that Moscow is a direct party to the conflict. Russia began carrying out airstrikes in support of Assad at the end of September. Fears over Assad support Turkey also voiced reservations about the ceasefire on Wednesday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara supports the deal "in principle" but worries the agreement would give Assad's government forces an advantage. "We support a ceasefire that will allow our Syrian brothers to breathe. However, this ceasefire agreement provides clear support to the Assad regime," he said in a speech. Hopes for peace talks The US and Russia announced Monday that a "cessation of hostilities" would take effect this coming Saturday, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying the truce could "radically transform the crisis situation in Syria." The United Nations hopes the planned halt will provide breathing space for Syrian peace talks to reconvene as early as March 4. Combatants in the Syria conflict are required to say whether they will agree to the "cessation of hostilities" by midday on Friday (1000 UTC), in order to bring fighting to a halt the following day on Saturday. End in sight? If successfully implemented, the ceasefire could see the end of Syria's five-year civil war that has killed more than 260,000 people and forced millions to flee. At a meeting in Vienna in November, world powers also agreed on an ambitious but yet-to-be implemented plan that envisages six months of intra-Syrian talks, leading to a new constitution and free elections within 18 months. Assad's government announced on Monday that Syria's regularly scheduled parliamentary elections would be held April 13.

Syria’s opposition has indicated that it is ready for a two-week truce in Syria. The UN hopes to implement the “cessation of hostilities” discussed by Russia and the US in a matter of days. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said it “views a temporary two-week truce as a chance to establish how serious ... Read More »

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