The hopeful first step towards ending chaos has been taken; the United States of America and Russia have issued a ceasefire in Syria.
The ceasefire will come into effect February 27th at midnight GMT, and will put a pause on the hostilities that have ravaged the nation for nearly five years. Although this ‘cessation of hostilities’, as it is known, is a measure being taken to end all forms of violence, the plan is leaving out a few critical components. This cessation is excluding the Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda affiliations in Syria (namely the Nusra Front), as well as other extremist groups within the state that have been officially recognized by the Security Council.
All other forms of opposition, which include about 100 rebel groups, within Syria had until 12PM on February 26th to join the arrangement. If these factors were not willing to cooperate, they would be excluded from the arrangement.
According to multiple news sources, the opposition parties were taking part in an airstrike during the last few hours before the deadline of 12PM in Aleppo, “with heavy shelling reported to have hit rebel-held areas to the east of Damascus, and clashes between rebels and government forces taking place in the northwestern province of Latakia”, according to VICE.
As published in an article by CTV, the, “Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the warplanes in Friday’s strikes were believed to be Russian”. Russia has stated it will not stop bombing possible terrorist locations, before or after the 12PM deadline. Russia has been participating in airstrikes on many Syrian regions for the sole purpose of removing any threat to Bashir Al-Assad’s government, which Russia has been supporting since their entrance into the state in late 2015.
Russia has denied allegations of bombing Douma, a suburban region of Damascus, approximately 40 times on Friday, which killed about eight people.
Now, with this cessation coming into effect, it is important to note the complex difference between the terms ceasefire, cessation of hostilities, and truce. A ceasefire and cessation are similar in the sense they both aim to temporarily suspend fighting within a region, however a ceasefire is a formally signed agreement. A truce, on the other hand, is more like a cessation, but it just pauses the activities during a state of violence. As stated in an article published by the Daily Mail, “the main Syrian opposition groups said they were committed to a two-week ‘truce’”, which indicates a possibility of violence resuming if either side of the truce erupts.
Even as the Nusra Front officials have expressed, it does not seem as though the ceasefire will last for very long, considering jihadi forces have been excluded from the arrangement. Even this truce they have settled on for now can evaporate. Russia stated it will not stop bombing terrorist locations, however, amidst the ceasefire, it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly where the terrorists are and are not located. This gives Russia an even wider space in which to continue bombing. Many Syrian activists have expressed sentiments against this notion, with some saying it’s providing ‘leeway’ for Russia and Assad’s government.
America is keeping a close eye on Russia during this ceasefire, and President Barack Obama has publicly stated the “world is watching” every move. As Russia is acting as protection for Al-Assad’s regime, the eastern power hopes to be of influence in the formation of a new government if Al-Assad is overthrown.
Although America and Russia have indirectly admitted to playing a negative role in the Syrian civil war earlier this month at the Munich Security Conference, America is merely trying to avoid total Russian influence within Syria in the event there is a complete restructuring of the government.
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