Syria ceasefire goes into effect, terrorist groups excluded

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SHAFAQNA-The US-Russian truce deal on “cessation of hostilities” in Syria came into effect at midnight Damascus time. The ceasefire does not apply to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Al-Nusra, or “other terrorist organizations” designated by the UN.

Earlier on Friday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution urging all parties involved in Syrian civil war to adhere to the terms of the US-Russian deal.

The US-Russia brokered ceasefire was first announced on February 22 by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama.

© Ilya Pitalev

Under the “Terms for a Cessation of Hostilities in Syria,”  the participants of the agreement are obligated to “cease attacks with any weapons, including rockets, mortars, and anti-tank guided missiles” and “refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire.” They must also allow“unhindered and sustained” access to humanitarian assistance missions and employ only “proportional force” in self-defense against those not party to the agreement.

The truce will be monitored by a task force co-chaired by Moscow and Washington. Russia and the US are to “work together to exchange pertinent information,” such as up-to-date maps indicating which sides have agreed to the ceasefire, and where they are located.

Earlier on Friday, the Syrian opposition taking part in the Geneva talks announced that they would respect the truce.

“The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) confirms the agreement of the Free Syrian Army factions and the armed opposition to a temporary truce from midnight Saturday,” an HNC statement said, as quoted by Reuters.

Damascus has supported the ceasefire, but says it will not tolerate terrorists exploiting it in order to restore their positions or receive support from abroad.

In general, the US has taken a rather skeptical stance towards the truce’s prospects for success. Nevertheless, Obama has said his administration will do everything in its power to make it work.

In a televised statement after the ceasefire plan was announced, Putin said that “this is a real chance to stop the bloodshed in Syria,” as well as to deliver humanitarian aid.

In the meantime, the US has been discussing “Plan B” options, in case the truce agreement in Syria fails, Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate committee on Wednesday, although he failed to specify what those Plan B options could be.

On the other hand, Russia says that it hasn’t discussed any “Plan B” options for Syria and finds it surprising that America has. “We’re perplexed by our Western partners, the US included, mentioning the existence of some kind of ‘Plan B,’ Nothing is known on that one, we are considering no alternative plans,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Thursday.

It will be important to keep the fight against terrorists groups going in Syria, RT’s Lizzie Phelan reported from Aleppo, citing a heavy extremist presence in certain areas of the city, which is located in the northern part of the country.

The Syrian army said that Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) maintain a strong presence in parts of the city currently held by opposition forces.

“In some areas there may be a ceasefire, but in most of Aleppo and surrounding countryside, it’s Al-Nusra and ISIS, and we won’t stop fighting until we get rid of them,” a Syrian officer said.

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