Syria truce ‘to start at weekend’

Syrian government forces patrol near Aleppo, 21 FebImage copyright

Image caption

The ceasefire call comes as government forces make gains around Aleppo in the north

A ceasefire in Syria agreed by Russia and the US is scheduled to come into effect at midnight on 27 February, a draft of the plan reveals.

The timing follows talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart at the weekend.

World powers meeting on 12 February had agreed a truce to come into effect within a week, but the deadline passed.

Syria has since seen continuing violence, with 140 killed in bombings in Homs and Damascus on Sunday.

More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed in the country’s conflict.

Some 11 million others have been forced from their homes, of whom four million have fled abroad – including growing numbers who are making the dangerous journey to Europe.

History of the conflict – how the civil war has spread

Maps of the conflict – the shifting territorial gains

‘Crucial week’

The Al-Jazeera TV network said it had obtained a draft of the US-Russia deal with the date included.

The network also said warring parties would have to agree to the truce by 26 February, but this has not been confirmed elsewhere.

Reuters quoted Western diplomatic sources as saying the ceasefire would not include so-called Islamic State (IS) or the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

Analysts say there will be huge scepticism about the possibility of an effective ceasefire, given the current fighting and failure of the first deadline.

Mr Kerry said on Sunday he and Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, had reached a provisional agreement on the terms for a truce.

On Monday, UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said this week would be “crucial” for efforts to help end the fighting, but he made no comment on the timing of the truce.

On Saturday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had said he would be ready for a ceasefire, if what he termed “terrorists” did not take advantage of the lull in the fighting.

Government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, have been making advances against rebels around the northern city of Aleppo.

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