Syria ceasefire went into effect at sunset Monday
US-Russia accords rely heavily on goodwill of parties involved
Pause in violence could pave way for peace in country
As the sun set in Syria Monday, another ceasefire aimed at ending the country’s bloody conflict began. Now the world watches with bated breath.
The country has faced an apparent intensification of airstrikes in the last 48 hours, a seemingly deliberate attempt by those on the ground to send a message of strength.
So will this agreement be a pivotal moment in the Syrian civil war or simply another brief hiatus in the death and destruction? Five questions about the latest truce:
How will it work?
The US and Russia brokered a pact to pause the violence on Friday after months of back and forth talks. US Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the ceasefire along with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, said the deal would stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air force from flying combat missions anywhere the opposition is present.
“That should put an end to the barrel bombs, an end to the indiscriminate bombing of civilian neighborhoods,” Kerry said.
The ceasefire will also allow for much-needed humanitarian access to besieged cities like Aleppo.
If the accords hold for seven days, Russia and the US will begin to discuss military options for targeting one-time al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, previously known as the al Nusra Front, and ISIS.
Who does it apply to?
The deal is supposed to cover everyone involved in the fighting. But in reality that’s difficult to enforce because there are so many groups in play.
The specifics of the agreement call for Assad’s troops and the opposition to abide by the ceasefire. Terrorist groups, including ISIS and Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, are not included in the agreement and military operations against them will continue.
Syria’s opposition has said it welcomes the ceasefire but only “if it is going to be enforced,” according to a statement form Bassma Kodmani, a member of the High Negotiations Committee on Saturday.
“When the cessation of hostilities was installed in February, the opposition – 100 groups – respected it. It was violated by the regime,” Kodmani said. “So a return to a cessation of hostilities has been our demand.”
The agreement has also been welcomed by the UN and foreign ministers from the UK, Turkey and Germany.
There is little trust between rebel groups and the regime itself. The rebels, for their part, agree to basic principles such as the creation of humanitarian corridors. But they have raised concerns about how the ceasefire will be monitored and what the consequences of any violations will be. There are also concerns that the deal will actually strengthen the regime and create a much more chaotic scene on the ground.
Will this push for peace be any different to previous attempts?
US Secretary of State Kerry stressed in the ceasefire announcement on Friday that this latest set of accords relies on the goodwill and trust of those involved.
“If the plan is implemented in good faith, if the stakeholders do the things that are available to them to do and are being called on to do, this can be a moment where the multilateral efforts at the diplomatic table, the negotiations could take hold, and you could really provide the people of Syria with a transition,” he said.
He also warned that the truce’s success depends on Russia actually putting pressure on al-Assad.
“‘We – the Obama administration, 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,” he said.
This isn’t the first time various parties have tried to end the bloody battles that have afflicted Syria since civil war broke out five years ago.
• In 2011, Syria signed an Arab League proposal aimed at stopping the fight between government forces and protestors but violence continued and the following month, the Arab League suspended its mission in the country.
• The UN has hosted three separate peace conferences in Geneva in hopes of ending the conflict, but each has ended without a breakthrough.
• The US and Russia coordinated a partial ceasefire back in February. But human rights groups monitoring the situation reported several airstrikes in the Aleppo region and near Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital, just days after the truce took effect.
What are ramifications for disobeying ceasefire?
It’s not immediately clear if there are any penalties in the current framework should any of the parties involved violate the ceasefire.
Under the terms of the cessation of hostilities in February, the agreement foresaw proportionate response in self-defense, if and when attacked.
What’s at stake?
The lives of millions of Syrian people.
In the five years since the beginning of the civil war, over four million people have been forced to flee their homeland, according to estimates from the UNHCR. Around 8.7 million more have been displaced internally and a ceasefire is the only hope for many who want to see an end to the ongoing violence.