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The Syrian Government and Opposition Groups Agree to Temporary Truce

The Syrian government and the umbrella opposition group the High Negotiations Committee have both issued statements provisionally agreeing to the terms of a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the US.

by VICE News and Reuters
Feb 23 2016, 11:36am

El coordinador de HNC Riad Hijab (derecha), junto a con el portavoz de HNC Salem al Meslet durante una conferencia de prensa después de las conversaciones de paz de Siria en Ginebra en febrero de 2016. Imagen por Martial Trezzini/EPA

The Syrian government said on Tuesday it accepted a halt to "combat operations" that does not include actions taken against the Islamic State (IS) group, the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, or groups connected to it, in line with a US-Russian plan announced on Monday.

It was followed by a statement from the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which represents Syria's main opposition groups, which said it had "given its acceptance of international efforts for a cessation of hostilities."

The Syrian government said it would coordinate with Russia to decide which groups and areas would be included in the cease fire which is due to take effect on Saturday at midnight local time, according to the US-Russian plan.

Related: The US and Russia Just Brokered a Ceasefire in Syria — But No Syrians Have Signed on Yet

Under the terms brokered on Monday, the Syrian government and opposition had until noon on Friday to agree to a cessation of hostilities, which does not apply to the "terrorist organizations" operating in Syria — specifically IS and the Nusra Front and groups allied with them. The US and Russia will establish a hotline for warring parties to report violations, they said in a joint statement adding the two countries were "prepared… to develop effective mechanisms to promote and monitor compliance with the ceasefire."

In a statement on Tuesday, the Syrian government stressed the importance of sealing the borders and halting foreign support to armed groups and "preventing these organizations from strengthening their capabilities or changing their positions, in order to avoid what may lead to wrecking this agreement".

The Syrian military reserved the right to "respond to any breach by [terrorist] groups against Syrian citizens or against its armed forces", the statement added.

Related: Supposed Syrian Ceasefire Viewed Skeptically by War-Weary Aid Workers

The HNC said it had accepted the terms of the temporary truce following an emergency meeting in Riyadh on Monday. "The HNC is committed to the success of the international efforts dedicated to ending the Syrian bloodshed and using all parties to the negotiating table, but we are also capable of addressing the regime in a language it understands," said HNC coordinator Dr Riad Hijab. Russia, Iran and militias must also "be held responsible to cease artillery and aerial bombardment against civilians," said the statement.

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