What the ceasefire deal for Syria means

From sunset on Monday, fighting must stop for a week.

GENEVA (// These are the key points in what is referred to as an “arrangement” announced by US secretary of state John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, aimed at halting the fighting in Syria and moving toward a political transition after five-and-a-half years of war between the army of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad and forces of the opposition.

WHAT THE ARRANGEMENT SAYS

A nationwide ceasefire by Assad’s forces and the American-backed opposition is set to begin across Syria at sunset on Monday. That sets off a seven-day period that will allow humanitarian aid and civilian traffic into Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and commercial capital, which has faced a recent onslaught.

Fighting forces are to also pull back from the Castello Road, a key thoroughfare and access route into Aleppo, and create a “demilitarised zone” around it.

Also on Monday, the United States and Russia will begin preparations for the creation of a Joint Implementation Centre that will share the information needed to define areas controlled by the radical Jabhat Fatah Al Sham (formerly Al Nusra Front) and opposition groups in areas “of active hostilities.” The centre is expected to be established a week later.

As part of the arrangement, Russia is expected to keep Syrian air force planes from bombing areas controlled by the opposition. The United States has committed to help weaken Jabhat Fatah Al Sham an extremist group that has intermingled with the US-backed opposition in places.

A resumption of political dialogue between the government and opposition under UN. mediation — which stopped in April — April, will be sought over the longer term.

THE STAKES

Syria’s civil war has killed as many as 500,000 people and sent millions fleeing their homes within Syria and into exile. Mr Kerry said this “new equation” offers an opportunity to find a peaceful solution and reverse the current trend of “creating more terrorists” and more destruction.

WHO’S ON BOARD

Mr Kerry said the various opposition forces backed by the US will be called upon to set themselves apart from the radical groups, ISIL and the Jabhat Fatah Al Sham/Nusra Front.

Mr Lavrov said, “The Syrian government has been informed of these arrangements and is ready to fulfil them.”

HOW THE ARRANGEMENT CAME TOGETHER

The Geneva negotiating session lasted more than 13 hours and capped a flurry of meetings between the two diplomats in recent days. Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov had met four times since a previous Geneva meeting on August 26, and their respective presidents, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, discussed the matter at a summit in China.

WHAT MAKES THIS DEAL DIFFERENT

Ultimately, the United States and Russia, the two powers in the Syrian conflict with a long standing mistrust of each other, will find themselves in the unprecedented position of fighting together against the extremists and sharing information. Mr Kerry acknowledged that “confusion” between Al Nusra and “legitimate opposition groups” that had led to a “fraying” of a ceasefire the US and Russia brokered earlier this year, which brought a badly-needed, but all too brief few weeks of respite to Syrian civilians

* Associated Press

Published: September 10, 2016 04:00 AM

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