US and Russia reach provisional deal on Syria truce

2016-02-21 20:11
Smoke rising after shelling in Houla in Syria's Homs province.  (Maysara al-Masri, AFP)

Smoke rising after shelling in Houla in Syria's Homs province. (Maysara al-Masri, AFP)

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Amman - John Kerry, US secretary of state, says a "provisional agreement" has been reached on a ceasefire in Syria's five-year civil war.

Kerry, speaking in Amman on Sunday alongside Nasser Judeh, Jordan's foreign minister, said he had spoken earlier that morning with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, about the agreement.

Now, he said, both the US and Russia planned to reach out to the various sides of the conflict.

The latest announcement comes as Syria's city of Homs was hit by a deadly car bombings that killed at 42 people on Sunday.

Syrian state news agency SANA said Sunday's attacks took place near the entrance to the al-Arman neighbourhood in Homs. Dozens more were wounded in the attacks, local officials said.

Homs city is largely under government control and has regularly been targeted in bomb attacks.

On Sunday, Kerry said he hoped President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin would talk soon and implementation could begin after that.

Kerry said details of a ceasefire still needed to be resolved, such as enforcement and that the international community was "closer to a ceasefire today than we have been".

The Russian foreign ministry confirmed that Lavrov and Kerry had spoken about conditions for a ceasefire in Syria on the telephone on Sunday.

It said discussions were on ceasefire conditions, which would exclude operations against organisations "recognised as terrorist by UN Security Council".

Both sides set conditions

Sunday's announcement came a day a number of Syrian opposition groups declared that they agree to the "possibility" of a temporary truce if President Bashar Assad's government and its allies respect several conditions, including halting fire.

The groups said on Saturday they would agree provided there were guarantees that the Syrian government forces and its allies would respect a ceasefire, sieges were lifted and aid deliveries permitted across the country.

The declaration came as fighting continued on the ground despite a Friday deadline for cessation of hostilities.

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The opposition factions "expressed agreement on the possibility of reaching a temporary truce deal, to be reached through international mediation", a statement from the High Negotiations Committee said.

It said the UN must guarantee "holding Russia and Iran and sectarian militias ... to a halt to fighting".

All sides should cease fire simultaneously and the government should release prisoners, the statement said.

For his part, Assad said in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais on Saturday that he was ready to implement a ceasefire but only if the rebels and their international backers such as Turkey did not use it as a chance to gain ground.

The conflict, which has resulted in more than 250,000 Syrians being killed.

Millions more have been displaced, having fled to neighbouring countries and Europe.

Read more on:    bashar assad  |  john kerry  |  sergei lavrov  |  syria  |  russia  |  us

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