Russia, Turkey said to agree on Syria ceasefire, rebels caution

SansadTV Bureau
FILE: File photo of Russia President Vladimir Putin. Photo - PTI

FILE: File photo of Russia President Vladimir Putin.
Photo – PTI

Turkey and Russia have agreed a ceasefire for all of Syria that should come into force at midnight, Turkish state media said today, but rebel groups said no such official truce had been agreed. The state-run Anadolu news agency said the plan aims to expand a ceasefire in the city of Aleppo — brokered by Turkey and Russia earlier this month to allow the evacuation of civilians — to the whole country.

If successful, the plan would form the basis of upcoming political negotiations between the Damascus regime and the opposition, overseen by Russia and Turkey in the Kazakh capital Astana, it added.

But in a speech in Ankara after the report was published, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made no reference to the plan, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he could not answer on an issue “about which I don’t have enough information”.

A Syrian rebel source, who asked not to be named, told AFP in Beirut that details still had to be submitted to opposition fighters and said there was no agreement as yet.

“The armed revolutionary factions have not received any official proposal for a ceasefire in Syria,” Labib Nahhas, head of foreign relations for the powerful Ahrar al-Sham rebel group added on his official Twitter account.

Anadolu said both sides were working for it to come into force at midnight but gave no further details.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Photo - AP/PTI

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
Photo – AP/PTI

Ankara and Moscow have been on opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, with Turkey seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.

But the two countries have recently started to cooperate more closely on Syria, especially after a deal in the summer to normalise ties battered by Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane last year.

Turkey remained conspicuously quiet as Assad’s forces, backed by Russia, took control last week of Aleppo in the biggest defeat so far for the rebels in the civil war.

Ankara has also hosted a succession of closed door talks between Russia and Syrian opposition rebels over the last weeks

Qatar-based channel Al-Jazeera said a new meeting is planned on Thursday in Ankara, this time between military representatives of Syrian rebels and Russia. No date has yet been set for the Astana talks and Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the meeting was still at the planning stage.

But the direct involvement of Turkey and Russia comes as Erdogan is increasingly expressing impatience at the role of the United States in Syria.

Previous ceasefire plans had been brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. They met with only temporary success and failed to lead to a solution for the conflict.

It remains unclear how the latest ceasefire plan will apply to Fateh al-Sham, formerly the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, which has worked more closely with the rebels since changing its name.