Russian and Turkey Backed Ceasefire Holding in Syria amid Clashes

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A Russian and Turkey backed ceasefire which came into effect yesterday is holding amid clashes between rival groups.   Russian president Vladimir Putin, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Turkish officials drew up the agreement.  Turkey has sided with opposition forces against Assad.

The true between the two sides is fragile.  Less than twelve hours later Syrian forces clashed with rebels near Damascus and helicopter gunships were in action according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In many areas included in the deal, however, calm is prevailing.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister said that the United States could form a fresh peace process once Donald Trump is sworn in.  He went on to say that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Nations could also be involved in negotiations between the two sides.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, a number of rebel groups have acknowledged the truce and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said they would abide by the truce.

Colonel Fares al-Bayoush of the FSA said, “This time I have confidence in its seriousness. There is new international input,”

The Syria civil war began six years ago and is believed to have killed 300,000 people and displaced over a eleven million.  The conflict has escalated over time with Russia and America backing opposing sides in the conflict.

The current ceasefire was the first Middle East based initiative that did not involve the U.S.

Previous attempts to bring peace to Syria have failed.  A Russian and American attempt in September failed after both sides accused the other of violating agreements, leading to hostilities to resume.

Mr Putin has announced that peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan will happen “soon”.  The Syrian government goes into the talks from a strong position.  Recently Syria and her allies retook Aleppo and routed the rebels.

For the talks to proceed the ceasefire will have to hold.  Matters are further complicated as certain rebel groups such as Islamic State are not covered by the agreement.

The U.S has been sidelined in negotiations that brought about the ceasefire.  All sides are looking at what Donald Trump’s foreign policy will look like when he takes office in a few weeks.

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