Is the ceasefire holding in Syria? The latest, and what we know so far

September 13, 2016 1:11 PM

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Syria’s government said on Tuesday it will reject any aid deliveries to Aleppo that are not coordinated through itself and the United Nations, particularly aid from Turkey, state media reported.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appear at a joint press conference following their meeting to discuss the crisis in Syria in Geneva on Sept. 9, 2016.

Who brokered it: The deal was hammered out by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.

What it says: The full text of the ceasefire deal is not yet public. Russia’s foreign ministry is pushing to release it, with Mr. Lavrov telling reporters on Tuesday that Moscow wants the deal to be made public but that the U.S. opposes such a move.

What the combatants can’t do: Under the publicly discussed terms of the deal, which officially came into effect at sunset on Sept. 12, all fighting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the rebels is to stop. Mr. al-Assad’s forces are no longer supposed to bomb Syria’s opposition. (The Syrian air force has been dropping barrel bombs on civilian areas under the pretext of targeting militants.)

What the combatants can do: Mr. al-Assad’s forces can continue air strikes against Islamic State and al-Qaeda-linked militants. But distinguishing protected rebels from jihadists is difficult, particularly with regards to a group formerly called the Nusra Front, which was al-Qaeda’s Syria branch until it changed its name in July. The group, which now calls itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, has been playing a vital role in the battle for Aleppo allied with other rebel factions. It remains excluded from the ceasefire, and other rebel groups say government forces or their allies can use its presence as an excuse to hit other targets.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency, Syrian President Bashar Assad, middle, walks on a street with officials after performing the morning Eid al-Adha prayers in Daraya, a blockaded Damascus suburb, on Sept. 12, 2016.

What the Syrian regime thinks of it: The Syrian army announced that it would abide by it until midnight on Sept. 18, while maintaining its right to defend itself against any violations.

What the Syrian rebels think of it: Rebel groups fighting to topple Mr. al-Assad issued a joint statement listing deep reservations with the agreement they described as unjust, echoing concerns outlined in a letter to the United States on Sunday. While the statement did not explicitly back the ceasefire, rebel sources cited by Reuters news agency said the groups were abiding by it.

What happens if it holds: The first week of the truce will be crucial. If calm holds for seven days, the U.S. and Russia would then set up a new co-operation centre that would jointly develop strategies to combat Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. The deal’s architects hope the cease-fire will pave the way for an extended period of restraint that can serve as the foundation for peace talks.

How ceasefires have failed before: This is the second attempt this year to try reduce violence in war-torn Syria. A truce in late February collapsed just days later.

Since 2011, the civil war has killed hundreds of thousands in Syria and displaced half the country’s population of 11 million. Many refugees have died attempting dangerous crossings in rickety boats over the Mediterranean to reach Europe, where many countries have tightened their rules on asylum-seekers to prevent more Syrians and others from coming in. Canada has accepted tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.

UN human-rights officials have condemned the Syrian governments for its human-rights abuses in the conflict. In a speech on Sept. 13, Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad said Syria was one of five countries that routinely refused to cooperate with human rights investigators. (The other countries are Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, and Iran, but Israel also had a long record of refusing cooperation in terms of access to occupied Palestinian territory, he added.)

Source: theglobeandmail.com

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