Obama says latest pact 'could end Syria's war'

2016-02-26 09:51
Barack Obama. (Antonio Perez, AP)

Barack Obama. (Antonio Perez, AP)

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Washington – US President Barack Obama says a proposed ceasefire due to come into effect on Saturday could be a key step towards ending Syria's war.

Obama told a meeting of members of his National Security Council in Washington on Thursday that halting air strikes was essential for the truce to be successful.

He added that ending fighting among various forces was the best route in tackling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

"The only way to deal with ISIL in a way that defeats them in a lasting way is to end the chaos in the civil war that has engulfed Syria," Obama said.

"That's how ISIL was able to thrive in the first place."

But Obama noted, however, it remains to be seen whether the "cessation of hostilities" will hold. 

"None of us are under any illusions, there are many potential pitfalls and reasons for scepticism," he said.

Russia and the US set a deadline of midnight Damascus time (22:00 GMT) on Friday for a cessation of hostilities between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and opposition forces.

The deal marks the biggest diplomatic push yet to end Syria's nearly five-year old war.

Jim Walsh from MIT's security studies programme said Obama appeared cautious about the success of the ceasefire in his statements.

"On the one hand he put his arms around this new ceasefire arrangement and identified with that, but he was quick to say scepticism is warranted - there were still be fighting with this ceasefire and he tried to lower expectations," Walsh told Al Jazeera.    

The US president's comments came as war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that forces loyal to Assad - supported by Russian air strikes - had taken back the strategic town of Khanaser from ISIL.

Rebels have been fighting to take control of the town, 50km southeast of Aleppo, with forces loyal to Assad.

The rebels have controlled the main highway to Aleppo, Syria's largest city that government forces have been encircling in recent weeks. 

Al Jazeera Arabic correspondents also reported at least four people were killed in a series of Russian air strikes in Aleppo's northern and southwestern countryside. Sources said a civilian was killed and others were wounded when government forces shelled a camp of displaced people in Latakia's northern countryside.

Near the capital Damascus, another woman was killed and several injured in a Russian air strike on Zamalka. A number of people were also wounded in air strikes on Ain Tarma and Al-Marj in Damascus' eastern countryside. 

In the town of Daraya, sources told AJA that regime helicopters had dropped dozens of barrel bombs on residential areas. The town was also the target of government artillery.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us  |  syria  |  isil

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