A recently enacted nationwide cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia is Syria’s best chance at securing greater humanitarian access and paving the way for a political transition for the war-torn country, America’s top diplomat said Monday.
John Kerry told reporters at the State Department that the situation in Syria is “a very toxic mix of interests and of agenda” that can only be resolved “step by step”.
Responding to allegations that the agreement is flawed, Kerry said that while it is “less than perfect”, it is far better than Syria’s status quo.
“Let me ask you, flawed compared to what? Compared to nothing? Compared to daily violence that absolutely guarantees a future of even more violence and a possible sectarian explosion in the region?” he asked rhetorically.
“This is an opportunity for Syria, an opportunity for all of the people who’ve been under siege, and it’s an opportunity for a political, diplomatic process, under the auspices of the United Nations,” he added.
Kerry urged all of Syria’s warring parties to adhere to the nascent agreement, but acknowledged there would “undoubtedly” be reports of violations as the agreement goes into effect.
“Despite that, this plan has a chance to work,” he said.
The United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported relative calm in Syria as of 7 p.m. local time (1600GMT) – when the agreement was slated to go into effect. It reported that quiet largely held, except for some southern regions.
If the agreement is able to hold for seven consecutive days the U.S. has agreed to establish a joint center with Russia to coordinate strikes against Daesh and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, al-Nusra Front, which recently rebranded itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
After U.S.-Russia strikes begin, the Syrian government will be prohibited from flying operations above opposition-held areas, as well as those held by al-Nusra, Kerry said.
“What this means is it would take Syrian warplanes and their barrel bombs out of those skies and prevent the regime from doing what it’s done so often in the past, which is to bomb a civilian apartment or hospital and claim that in doing so they were really targeting al-Nusra,” he said.
The U.S. and Russia agreed to a joint map of locations held by the opposition, al-Nusra and designating locations where those forces are comingled. The Syrian government gave its consent to the designations, Kerry said citing Russia.
Praising the Syrian opposition’s “courage” for agreeing to the plan, Kerry urged it to disentangle from al-Nusra’s forces “in those areas where intermingling has been a problem.
“That is a losing proposition,” he said. “If they join with Nusra in offensive action and attacks then they’ve made a choice to be with Nusra and then they clearly run the risk.”
The agreement does not protect al-Nusra or Daesh from coming under attack. Both groups are designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. and Russia.
Source: Anadolu Agency
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