Ceasefire and Humanitarian Aid for Syria

February 12, 2016

2 min read

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that the major world powers have agreed to a “cessation of hostilities” and delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria. The agreement, signed by 17 member countries of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), fell short of being a complete ceasefire, and does not affect ISIS, al Nusra, or Russian bombing of Aleppo and rebel targets. The agreement came as a result of marathon talks in Munich.

“I’m pleased to say that as a result today in Munich, we believe we have made progress on both the humanitarian front and the cessation of hostilities front, and these two fronts, this progress, has the potential – fully implemented, fully followed through on – to be able to change the daily lives of the Syrian people,” Kerry said.

“First, we have agreed to accelerate and expand the delivery of humanitarian aid beginning immediately,” he told reporters.

“Second, we have agreed to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities to begin in a target of one week’s time. That’s ambitious, but everybody is determined to move as rapidly as possible to try to achieve this.”

When asked about the difference between a ceasefire and a cessation of hostilities, Kerry explained:

“A ceasefire has a great many legal prerogatives and requirements. A cessation of hostilities does not – is not anticipated to, but in many ways, they have a similar effect.” He continued,”A ceasefire in the minds of many of the participants in this particular moment connotes something far more permanent and far more reflective of sort of an end of conflict, if you will. And it is distinctly not that.”

Kerry went on to explain what it did entail. “This is a pause that is dependent on the process going forward, and therefore cessation of hostilities is a much more appropriate, apt term. But the effect of ending hostile actions, the effect of ending offensive actions and permitting only defensive actions that are a matter of self-defense is the same in that regard.”

A UN task force, co-chaired by Russia and the US, will work over the coming week “to develop the modalities for a long-term, comprehensive and durable cessation of violence,” Kerry said. Another task force will oversee the delivery of aid, including working with Syria to open routes of access. Approximately ten of 116 access requests have been granted by the Syrian government to the UN.

At the news conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear that his government would continue their air operations in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Our airspace forces will continue working against these organizations,” he said.

Even with its limited success, this round of negotiations bears reason for optimism, since the last attempt at talks one month ago fell apart even before it began as Assad’s troops, backed by the Russians, pressed a strong offensive against the key rebel stronghold in Aleppo.

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