World powers agree to peace plan in Syria in a week’s time

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.

US secretary of state John Kerry, centre, with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and UN Special Envoy of the secretary-general for Syria Staffan de Mistura, right, hold a press conference after the International Syria Support Group meeting in Munich, Germany, Sven Hoppe / EPA
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MUNICH // 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 target for implementing the nationwide cessation of fighting was a week’s time.

Mr Kerry said all participants had agreed that Syrian peace negotiations should resume in Geneva as soon as possible. He said the cessation would not apply to ISIL 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,” Mr 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 spectre 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 ISIL.

The first peace talks in two years between belligerents in Syria collapsed last week before they began in the face an the offensive by President Bashar Al Assad’s forces, one of the biggest and most consequential 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 being besieged by both sides and a commitment that Syrian parties return to Geneva for political negotiations.

* Reuters