Russia and Turkey have negotiated a general cease-fire in Syria, according to a Turkish state-run news agency, potentially signaling the beginning of the end of the five-year conflict that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
An unnamed source speaking to the Anadolu Agency said the plan would cover all areas where Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and the opposition are fighting, but that terrorist organizations would be excluded. Both parties aim for the cease-fire to go into effect at midnight (5 p.m. ET) Wednesday, according to the same report.
There has been no official word from Turkey, Russia, or Syria about the reported cease-fire. Russia’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that the Syrian government was holding talks with opposition forces to sound them out about a potential cease-fire. A Saudi-backed opposition force said it knew nothing of the negotiations but supported a cease-fire.
If the cease-fire takes place — and holds — then talks aimed at shaping a longer-term solution will begin in Kazakhstan next month, with Turkey and Russia acting as guarantors. Russia, which is the Syrian government’s main ally, and Turkey, an important backer of the opposition forces, announced last week that they would seek to bring an end to the civil war in Syria. Iran will also play a role in possible peace plans.
Wednesday’s news is just the latest indication that the U.S. and U.N. have been sidelined from the region’s most pressing issue. On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan further alienated the U.S. by accusing it of funding the Islamic State group. “They were accusing us of supporting Daesh,” Erdogan said during a press conference in Ankara, using the Arab word for the group. “Now they give support to terrorist groups, including Daesh, YPG [People’s Protection Units], PYD [Democratic Union Party]. It is very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos, and videos.”
Russia and Turkey recently negotiated a cease-fire in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo, where tens of thousands of civilians and rebels were evacuated but hundreds more died from bombings and lack of medical care.