Midnight truce in Syria

BEIRUT: Syria’s army and key ally Russia on Thursday announced a nationwide ceasefire to take effect at midnight, in a major potential breakthrough after nearly six years of civil war.
The deal was brokered by Russia and Turkey, who back opposing sides in the brutal conflict, but notably does not involve Washington, which has negotiated previous ceasefires with Moscow.
It comes a week after the government recaptured second city Aleppo in a major blow to rebel forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the deal, saying Damascus and the “main forces of the armed opposition” had inked a truce and a document expressing a readiness to start peace talks.
“Several hours ago, the event occurred that we have not only been waiting for but been working so much to hasten,” Putin said in a meeting with his defence and foreign ministers.
After the Kremlin’s announcement, Syria’s army said it would halt all military operations from midnight, and the opposition National Coalition also said it backed the truce.
Putin said he would also reduce Moscow’s military contingent in Syria, which has been flying a bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al Assad since last year.
The Kremlin strongman, however, said that Russia would continue to fight “terrorism” in the war-torn country and maintain its support for the government in Damascus.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that seven opposition groups, including the powerful Ahrar al Sham, had signed the deal and those who failed to adhere would be considered “terrorists”.
Syria’s army said the deal did not include the IS group and Al Nusra Front, now rebranded the Fateh al
Sham Front.
That could cause complications in areas like Idlib in northwestern Syria, where Fateh al Sham is allied with rebel groups that have signed on to the deal.
Syria’s political opposition and rebels confirmed their backing for the deal, saying it applied to all parts of the country. — Agencies