The United States and Russia early Saturday announced a breakthrough agreement on Syria that foresees a nationwide ceasefire starting Monday, followed a week later by an unexpected new military partnership targeting the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda as well as the establishment of new limits on President Bashar Assad’s forces.
After a daylong final negotiating session in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said shortly after midnight Saturday that the plan could reduce violence in Syria and lead to a long sought political transition, ending more than five years of bloodshed. He called the deal a potential “turning point” in a conflict that has killed as many as 500,000 people, if complied with by Syria’s Russian-backed government and U.S.-supported rebel groups.
The ceasefire begins at sundown September 12, Mr. Kerry said, coinciding with the Eid-ul-Adha holiday.“Today the United States and Russia are announcing a plan, which we hope will reduce violence, ease suffering and resume movement toward a negotiated peace and a political transition in Syria,” Mr. Kerry said. “We are announcing an arrangement that we think has the capability of sticking, but it is dependent on people’s choices.”“It has the ability to stick, provided the regime and the opposition both meet their obligations, which we expect other supporting countries will strongly encourage them to do,” he added.
Mr. Kerry’s negotiating partner, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, confirming the agreement, said it could help expand the counterterrorism fight and aid deliveries to Syrian civilians under U.N. auspices that have been stalled for weeks. Assad’s government was informed of the accord, and it as prepared to comply.
“The United States is going the extra mile here because we believe that Russia, and my colleague, have the capability to press the Assad regime to stop this conflict and to come to the table and make peace,” Mr. Kerry said, citing a number of recent meetings with Mr. Lavrov.“This is just the beginning of our new relations,” Mr. Lavrov said.