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US and Russia Agree to a 'Cessation of Hostilities' and More Humanitarian Aid in Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that a halt in fighting should take place in a week — but the deal doesn't involve the Islamic State.

by VICE News and Reuters
Feb 12 2016, 2:00am

Le ministre des Affaires étrangères russe Sergei Lavrov, le Secrétaire d'État américain John Kerry, l'envoyé spécial de l'ONU en Syrie Staffan de Mistura. (Photo de Sven Hoppe/EPA)

Major powers agreed on Friday to implement a cessation of hostilities in Syria and to expand delivery of humanitarian aid to people caught up in the conflict, officials said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking to reporters after a meeting in Munich that included Russia and more than a dozen other countries, said the timeframe for the implementation of the cessation of fighting was hoped to be a week. He said all participants had agreed that Syrian peace negotiations should resume in Geneva as soon as possible.

"We believe we have made progres on both the humanitarian front and the cessation of hostilities front," Kerry said. "This progress has the potential — fully implemented, fully followed-through on — to be able to change the daily lives of the Syrian people."

He stressed that the cessation would not apply to Islamic State (IS) and other militant groups fighting in Syria.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said ending fighting could only succeed if Russia stopped air strikes supporting Syrian government forces' advance against the opposition.

"If implemented fully and properly… this [deal] will be an important step towards relieving the killing and suffering in Syria," Hammond said in a statement.

A Western diplomatic source said, "We did not get a deal on the immediate end of Russian bombings, but we have a commitment to a process that if it works, would change the situation."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday raised the specter of an interminable conflict or even a world war if powers failed to negotiate an end to the fighting in Syria, which has killed 250,000 people, caused a refugee crisis, and empowered IS militants.

The first peace talks in two years between belligerents in Syria collapsed last week before they began in the face of the offensive by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's forces, one of the largest and most consequential offensives of the five-year war.

Ministers at Thursday's talks wrangled over three core issues: a gradual cessation of hostilities with a firm end date, humanitarian access to cities besieged by both sides, and a commitment that Syrian parties return to Geneva for political negotiations.

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