Cease-fire takes effect in southwest Syria

July 9 (UPI) — A cease-fire brokered by the United States, Russia and Jordan took effect at noon Sunday in southwest Syria.

The cease-fire began in the provinces of Daraa, Suweida and Quneitra along the Jordanian border. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces, which are aligned with Russia, earlier announced a halt to combat operations in the areas. The United States backs the rebel forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “calm was prevailing” in the area.

Similar agreements in Syria since the war began in 2011 have failed shorty after they took effect.

It is the first time the United States has been involved in cease-fire talks since a previous Russian-American brokered truce collapsed last year.

U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster said the United States was “encouraged by the progress made to reach this agreement.”

“The United States remains committed to defeating ISIS [Islamic State], helping to end the conflict in Syria, reducing suffering, and enabling people to return to their homes,” he added. “This agreement is an important step toward these common goals.”

An unidentified senior U.S. official said the U.S., Russia and Jordan agreed on a line of contact that separates government and opposition forces in the area.

The agreement was announced after U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg on Friday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the cease-fire is aimed at getting aid deliveries through to war-ravaged areas.

“In the first stage, Russian military police, as well as the Americans and the Jordanians, will ensure security around this de-escalation zone covered by the ceasefire,” Lavrov said.

Separately, Russia, Turkey, Iran, the United States and a United Nations envoy have been negotiating peace in the four so-called de-escalation zones in mainly opposition-held areas, including Idlib and Latakia province, northern Homs province and the northern Damascas countryside.

Those talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana last week broke down over the policing and precise borders of the areas.

Last week, Syria declared a cease-fire throughout the southern portion of the nation that ended Thursday.


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