Boris Johnson 'welcomes' US and Russia agreement over Syria

The new agreement could be a 'turning point' in the Syria conflict, says US Secretary of State John Kerry

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The Independent Online

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said he welcomes a peace deal made by Russia and the US over a ceasefire in Syria.

He praised US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to reach the agreement and said the Assad regime must "respond with convincing ideas of its own, not bombing, shelling and sieges".

A nationwide ceasefire between government forces and rebel groups is set to begin at sunset on Monday.

Speaking in Geneva in the early hours of Saturday, Mr Kerry said the agreement would be a “turning point” for the war-torn country if implemented, and suggested it could also lead to the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr Kerry said the plan was intended “to reduce violence, ease suffering and resume movement towards a negotiated peace and a political transition in Syria.”

In a statement, Mr Johnson said: “I welcome the agreement that the US and Russia have reached to restore the Cessation of Hostilities and humanitarian access in Syria. I pay tribute to the tireless work of Secretary Kerry in bringing us to this point.

“For years we have seen the indiscriminate targeting by the Asad regime of civilians and moderate groups, and heard only broken promises leading to sieges and starvation."

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Fighting between rebels and Assad’s forces has recently reached new levels of ferociousness in and around the divided northern city of Aleppo, where human rights groups report the conflict has claimed more than 700 civilian lives in the last 40 days, including 165 children.

The deal calls for unimpeded humanitarian access to all of Syria’s worst afflicted areas, including Aleppo.

“I hope this agreement will begin to unlock the flow of desperately-needed aid to Syria's people, particularly in and around Aleppo, and that it will create the necessary space for a credible political process based on the Geneva Communique," said Mr Johnson.

"It is only through a political transition that Syria will rid itself of the twin scourges of Asad and terrorism, and give the country and its people the chance of a peaceful future. 

“I call on all parties to the Syria conflict and all countries with influence upon them to do what is needed to end violence and lift sieges," said Mr Johnson.

"In particular, it's vital that the regime in Damascus now delivers on its obligations, and I call on Russia to use all its influence to ensure this happens. They will be judged by their actions alone."

He added: “The Syrian Opposition High Negotiations Committee set out in London this week a clear and detailed plan for securing that transition; the Asad regime must now respond with convincing ideas of its own, not bombing, shelling and sieges.“

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