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Syrian nationwide cease-fire goes into force

Editor: Zhang Jianfeng 丨Xinhua

12-30-2016 07:07 BJT

DAMASCUS, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- The recently agreed upon cessation of hostilities went into force at midnight on Thursday, as declared by the Syrian army.

The nationwide ceasefire was brokered by Russia and Turkey and agreed upon by Syria, and major opposition and rebel groups, while terror-designated organizations such as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and the Islamic State (IS), were excluded.

While previous cease-fires have failed to hold in Syria, the new one is particularly distinct as it enjoys the approval of all concerned parties, mainly Turkey, which has a major influence on the rebel groups operating in Syria.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Thursday evening that the cease-fire constitutes a "real chance" to establish a political settlement in Syria.

The cease-fire comes after the Syrian army and its allied fighters retook the city of Aleppo in northern Syria, after dealing a big blow to the rebels, said al-Moallem.

He noted that the new cease-fire is distinct from the previous failing ones due to the "strong Russian guarantees," saying that Russia is a partner in fighting terrorism, and Russia has guaranteed that "every breach will be confronted."

The Syrian army said in a statement that the cease-fire paves the way for reactivating negotiations to end the conflict.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promised Thursday to honor the newly-clinched ceasefire agreement in a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, according to the Kremlin.

For his part, Putin said that Russia and Turkey will guarantee the truce, adding that the ceasefire will be followed by peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Kazakhstan, without specifying a date.

The Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Coalition, a political coalition of Syrian opposition groups, have announced their acceptance to the ceasefire.

Osama Donora, a political analyst, told Xinhua that the ceasefire comes as a result of the victories of the Syrian army, particularly in Aleppo in northern Syria, as the entire city has fallen back under the government control since last week, when the rebels all withdrew toward the countryside of the city.

Another reason, Danura said, is the Russian-Iranian effort to push Ankara to reach common ground with the two countries.

"The new agreement means that Turkey is now onboard with Russia, and its pledge to guarantee the implementation of the ceasefire on the rebel side is a positive thing," said Danura. "This means that the main obstacle that was hindering the political settlement to Syria's crisis has been largely surmounted."

If the rebels shift toward pointing guns on and severing ties with terrorist groups, it will be a right prelude to the upcoming Syrian political talks, the expert said.

Danura pointed out that the new ceasefire will also serve as a test to the true intentions of rebels and Turkey, as the latter has always been the "umbilical cord feeding the rebels in northern Syria with arms, fighters and logistics."

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