Syria: Cessation of violence agreed for one week's time

US and Russia reached agreement but it falls short of ceasefire

Newstalk, US, Russia, Syria, cessation of violence, ceasefire, John Kerry, Sergei Lavrov, Bashar al Assad

US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend International Syria Support Group meeting.(AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

 

A plan has been agreed for a "nationwide cessation" of violence in Syria in a week's time, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

However, Islamic State, al Nusra and other terror groups will not be involved in the truce - and Russia has said it will be continuing its bombing campaign.

It is hoped that improving conditions on the ground will then pave the way for peace talks to be relaunched in Geneva.

A pause

Friday's breakthrough, described by Mr Kerry as a "pause" in the conflict, is designed to allow for humanitarian aid to be immediately "accelerated and expanded".

It could potentially end scenes like those seen in Madaya, a besieged town where thousands of Syrians have been ravaged by famine.

Within the coming days, "sustained delivery of assistance" will begin by air to Deir Ezzor - while embattled areas of Damascus, Madaya, Moadamiyeh and Kafr Batna will receive support by land.

"Everybody today agreed on the urgency of humanitarian access," said Mr Kerry.

"What we have here are words on paper. What we need to see in the next few days are actions on the ground, in the field."

First step

The nationwide pause in the fighting will "begin in a target of one week's time", said the Secretary of State.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, called it a "first step" towards a ceasefire but said his country was still pressing ahead with its campaign of airstrikes.

Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov both conceded that the "real test" would be whether all parties involved in the Syrian conflict honour their commitments in the coming weeks.

The marathon talks in Munich involved Russia and more than a dozen other countries.

Negotiations between Syrian President Bashar al Assad and the opposition broke down last month, and the UN has set a target date of 25 February for both sides to resume discussions.

Russia's airstrikes have brought Syrian government forces to the verge of capturing the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee to the Turkish border.

Fighting in Syria has killed an estimated 250,000 people - and also sparked the migration crisis which has seen millions of refugees leave their homes to find safety in Turkey, Lebanon and in Europe.