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John Kerry Says Ceasefire Between Syrian Rebels and Assad Could Be 'Weeks' Away

US Secretary of State announces plans that could lead to other groups ganging-up on the Islamic State in near future.

by Brian McManus
Nov 17 2015, 5:30pm

Photo of John Kerry via the US Embassy New Delhi's Flickr account

Read: Why I'm Rapping in Paris Tonight

Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit in Paris Monday in order to "reiterate America's commitment to our strong relationship with France" in the face of last Friday's horrific attacks. This morning, the AP reports, he announced that a ceasefire between Syria and opposition fighters (excluding the Islamic State) may not be all that far away. "That's a gigantic step. If we can get that done, that opens up the aperture for a whole bunch of things," Kerry said. "We're weeks away conceivably from the possibility of a big transition for Syria."

The idea that a ceasefire between the two sides would be a big, big deal was echoed by Omar Lamrani, a military analyst interviewed on Monday by VICE. When asked what an international strategy for defeating the Islamic State would look like, he replied:

We are seeing a shift in dynamics where there's a desire to end the Syrian conflict. The reason being, the vast focus of the loyal [i.e. pro-Assad] side and the [non-IS] rebel side is on each other. And that gives IS greater leeway to operate on the fringes, and seize opportunity to take terrain, and so forth. If they do reach an accommodation, a ceasefire, or peace, essentially down the road, it's going to much easier to fight against IS. It's something that the the Russians, the Americans, and the French know the others can agree on.

Saudi Arabia is set to host a meeting of key figures of the Syrian opposition in mid-December, the purpose of which is to select delegates to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. If all goes as planned, the two sides will begin negotiations, and a ceasefire will be in place during the talks.

These arrangements are being made as IS has escalated its attacks on other countries. Russia has stepped up its military action against IS after confirming that a bomb took down a Russian plane over Egypt a few weeks ago, killing all 224 passengers. IS has also claimed responsibility for recent deadly attacks in Lebanon and Turkey.

"My sense is everybody understands that with Lebanon's attacks, with what's happened in Egypt, with Ankara, Turkey and attacks in Paris, we have to step up our efforts to hit [IS] at the core where they're planning these things and also obviously to do more on borders in terms the movement of people," Kerry told the press on Tuesday.

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