WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – Speaking on Friday in Hamburg, Germany, at the G-20 summit, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the US and Russia had reached agreement on establishing a cease-fire in southwestern Syria.
The cessation of hostilities is to take effect starting Sunday at noon, local time.
The area of the cease-fire covers much of Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel. The agreement was reached in Amman, Jordan, with Jordan a direct party to the talks and Israel an indirect party.
Although Syria was not involved in the negotiations, Russian officials have said that Syria will abide by it.
Iranian-backed Shiite militias are also affected, as they are present in the ceasefire area.
Like Syria, Iran was not a party to the negotiations, but the US has “the expectation” that Moscow will use “its influence to ensure that [Iranian-backed groups] respect the ceasefire,” a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
The cease-fire agreement will “freeze” the positions of regime and rebel forces. A line separating the two has been agreed upon, although it has not yet been publicly disclosed.
The area of the cease-fire includes all or part of Syria’s Dera’a, Quneitra, and Sweida provinces. A center to monitor the ceasefire is to be established in Amman.
Other key details, however, remain undecided. They include who will monitor the ceasefire.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who, like Tillerson, was in Hamburg for the G-20 summit, told reporters that Russian military police would do so, in coordination with the US and Jordan.
However, Israel has told the US that it does not want Russian troops in those areas, and US officials say the composition of the monitoring force has yet to be determined.
For its part, Washington is extremely reluctant to become further involved in Syria, beyond what it sees as necessary to defeat the Islamic State. US officials have said that US troops would not be involved in monitoring the agreement.
The Syrian rebels in the ceasefire area are known as the “Southern Front” and are supported by Jordan and the US.
“We maintain fairly constant contact” with them, the senior State Department official explained. “We had a sense that they themselves were supportive of a ceasefire,” as fighting in the area had recently escalated, without either side making tangible gains.
The US and Russia have reached understandings before on halting violence in Syria, only to see those agreements quickly fall apart.
This latest agreement is the product of a new set of negotiations that started soon after the Trump administration took office.
The talks began with self-consciously modest expectations. The underlying notion was to focus on a region that was relatively quiet, on the assumption it would be easiest to reach agreement on such an area.
Assuming that the latest ceasefire holds, it is intended as “an interim step with the objective of creating a “better environment for a broader and more detailed arrangement,” the senior State Department official said.
That remains, however, a distant aspiration in Syria’s six-year long civil war.
Editing by Ava Homa