US, Russia, Jordan reach ceasefire deal for southwest Syria – Nasdaq

Tom MarkLast Update : Friday 7 July 2017 - 8:21 PM
US, Russia, Jordan reach ceasefire deal for southwest Syria – Nasdaq

(Adds rebel comments, background)
    By Jeff Mason and Denis Dyomkin
    HAMBURG, July 7 (Reuters) - The United States, Russia and
Jordan have reached a ceasefire and "de-escalation agreement" in
southwestern Syria, one of the combat zones in a six-year-old
civil war, Washington and Moscow said on Friday.
    The ceasefire will go into effect at noon Damascus time
(0900 GMT) on Sunday, U.S. and Russian officials said.
    The deal was announced after a meeting between U.S.
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at
the G20 summit of major economies in the German city of Hamburg.
    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the area covered
by the ceasefire affects Jordan's security and is a "very
complicated part of the Syrian battlefield."
    Russia and Iran are the main international backers of Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad while Washington supports some of the
rebel groups fighting to topple him.
    "I think this is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia
being able to work together in Syria, and as a result of that we
had a very lengthy discussion regarding other areas in Syria
that we can continue to work together on to de-escalate the
areas," Tillerson said.
    The conflict has killed nearly half a million people,
according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights, turned cities into ruins and forced millions to flee
    Previous similar ceasefires have failed to hold for long.
Trump ordered missile strikes against a Syrian air base in April
to punish Assad after a chemical weapons attack but this is the
first time his administration has been so directly involved in a
peace-making attempt there.
    Backed by Russian air power, Assad has regained ground in
the last year or so lost to the mostly Sunni Muslim rebels.
    The Syria deal appeared to be the main point of agreement at
the first meeting between Trump and Putin, who also discussed
Moscow's alleged interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential
election and North Korea's nuclear ambitions. [nS0N1G400Q]

    Lavrov said the accord includes "securing humanitarian
access and setting up contacts between the opposition in the
region and a monitoring centre that is being established in
Jordan's capital."
    Tillerson said that by and large the objectives of the
United States and Russia in Syria "are exactly the same."
    But Washington and Moscow have long been at odds over Syria.

    The United States has often called for the removal of Assad,
who it blames for shootings of protesters at the start of the
conflict and, more recently, chemical weapons attacks on
    Russia and Iran strongly back the Syrian leader, who gives
both countries a strategic foothold in the Mediterranean Sea.
    Despite the ceasefire deal, Tillerson said the United States
still sees "no long-term role for the Assad family or the Assad
regime. And we have made this clear to everyone. We certainly
made it clear in our discussions with Russia."
    Robert Ford, who resigned in 2014 as U.S. ambassador to
Syria over policy disagreements, said the Trump administration,
like that of former President Barack Obama, has "no national
objective for the future of Syria nor any strategy for how to
secure an objective were one identified."
    By contrast, Russia's overall aim is clearer, said Ford, now
a fellow at the Middle East Institute think tank in Washington.
    "The Russian objective is to insulate Damascus and the
Syrian national government from outside pressure trying to
pressure it into major concessions," he said.
    A group of Syrian rebels that took part in the latest peace
talks in Kazakhstan this month said in a statement it had "great
concern over the secret meetings between Russia and Jordan and
America to conclude an individual deal for southern Syria in
isolation from the north," which it described as an
unprecedented event that "divides Syria and the opposition."
    The Syrian government and the Southern Front, the main
grouping of Western-backed rebel groups in southwest Syria, did
not immediately react to the ceasefire deal.
    It was not immediately clear exactly which areas of
southwestern Syria would be covered by the ceasefire but earlier
talks between the United States and Russia about a
"de-escalation zone" covered Deraa province, on the border with
Jordan, and Quneitra, which borders the Israeli-occupied Golan
    British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon welcomed any
ceasefire in Syria but wanted to see results on the ground.
    "The recent history of the Syrian civil war is littered with
ceasefires and it would be nice ... one day to have a
ceasefire," Fallon said at an event in Washington.

 (Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy, Idrees Ali and Tim
Ahmann and Doina Chiacu in Washington and Ellen Francis in
Beirut; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Tom Brown and James
 ((; +1-202-779-1681; Twitter
@yarabayoumy; Reuters Messaging:


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2017-07-07 2017-07-07
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