Syria peace deal could initiate 'end of civilians' ordeal' if enforced, rebels say

A nationwide ceasefire agreed by the US and Russia is set to begin at sunset on Monday

Katie Forster
Saturday 10 September 2016 13:41 BST
A man carries a girl that survived bombing on the rebel held Bab al-Nayrab neighborhood of Aleppo on 27 August
A man carries a girl that survived bombing on the rebel held Bab al-Nayrab neighborhood of Aleppo on 27 August (Reuters)

A new peace deal agreed by the US and Russia could signal "the beginning of the end of the civilians' ordeal" in Syria, a mainstream rebel group has said.

High Negotiations Committee spokesperson Bassma Kodmani said the body welcomed the deal "if it is going to be enforced."

The onus was on Russia as its influence “was the only way to get the regime to comply,” her statement added.

However, not all rebels fighting in the war-torn country shared Dr Kodmani's optimism, with some saying there was little chance of the new agreement succeeding.

Free Syrian Army regional leader Fares al-Bayoush said Russia and Damascus had not observed the last agreement, and the chances of the new deal succeeding were the same as the last one.

Syria's civil war: New ceasefire begins start of Eid

A nationwide ceasefire is set to begin at sunset on Monday after US and Russia came to an agreement in Geneva which US Secretary of State John Kerry said could be a “turning point” for the war-torn country if implemented.

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.”

But the potential breakthrough deal will hinge on compliance by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Russian-backed forces and US-supported rebel groups, plus key regional powers such as Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Syrian rescue workers search for victims through the rubble of a building destroyed during a reported barrel bomb attack in a rebel-held neighbourhood in eastern Aleppo on August 27, 2016 (AFP/Getty Images)

According to a military spokesman for the rebel Nour al-Din al Zinki Brigades, the deal could worsen the ferocious fighting between rebels and Assad’s forces in Aleppo.

Human rights groups report the conflict in the divided northern city has claimed more than 700 civilian lives in the last 40 days, including 165 children.

Captain Abdul Salam Abdul Razak said the deal give the Syrian army a chance to gather forces and pour more Iranian-backed militias into the main battles raging in the city.

The deal, at least publicly and for now, appears to overcome months of distrust between Russia and the United States that President Barack Obama had cited less than a week ago.

Now, the two powers are lining up in an unexpected new military partnership targeting the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked militants, while trying to prod Assad and opposition groups to end a civil war that has killed up to 500,000 people and displaced millions.

The ultimate hope is to silence the Syrian guns so that the long-stalled peace process under UN mediation can resume between Assad's envoys and representatives of the opposition, while the two world powers focus on battling jihadis.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said he welcomes the deal, and said the Assad regime must “respond with convincing ideas of its own, not bombing, shelling and sieges”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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