Syrian ceasefire

A ceasefire agreement has been reached between the Syrian Government and rebel groups and is backed by Russia and Turkey – but it doesn’t include jihadist groups.

RNZ: Syria ceasefire agreed, backed by Russia and Turkey

The Syrian government and rebel groups have agreed a nationwide ceasefire that will begin within hours.

The deal was announced by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and confirmed by Turkey. The two nations, which back opposing sides, will act as guarantors.

The High Negotiations Committee (HNC), regarded by the UN as Syria’s main opposition body, confirmed the deal, which excludes jihadist groups.

If the truce holds, peace talks will be held in Kazakhstan within a month.

‘If the truce holds’ may be a big IF. Government and 13 factions have signed the ceasefire.

On the one side, Syrian government forces, their factional allies and the Russian military.

On the other, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a loose alliance of several moderate rebel factions, plus other groups under the HNC, the umbrella group representing Syria’s political and armed opposition factions.

FSA spokesman Osama Abu Zaid said there were 13 armed opposition factions in all who had signed up.

That’s a lot of factions involved in the civil war.

But there’s others who are not a part of this agreement.

Jihadists. So-called Islamic State (IS) “and the groups affiliated to them” are not part of the agreement, Syria’s army confirmed.

It also said Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front) was excluded. However, some rebel officials told Reuters it was part of the deal, giving a hint of the complications that lie ahead.

This is because JFS is intrinsically linked in Idlib province to groups that have signed up to the truce.

The FSA also said that the deal did not include the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG).

The YPG, along with other Kurdish militias, controls a large area of northern Syria up the Turkish border. It is regarded by Turkey as a terrorist organisation and an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

So some of the battles may cease but the war is likely to continue against ISIS and Kurds.

But it’s a promising sign that at least some of the internal factions are willing to stop fighting.