The United States and Russia announced a breakthrough deal on Friday to put Syria’s peace process back on track, including a nationwide truce effective from sundown on Monday, improved humanitarian aid access and joint military targeting of banned Islamist groups.
The US secretary of state John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, announced the deal at a news conference after marathon talks in Geneva.
Here is a look at some of the key points in an “arrangement” aimed at halting fighting in Syria and moving toward a political transition after 5-1/2 years of combat between President Bashar Assad’s forces and opposition rebels:
What the arrangement says
A nationwide cease-fire by Assad’s forces and the US-backed opposition is set to begin across Syria at sundown Monday. That sets off a seven-day period that will allow for humanitarian aid and civilian traffic into Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and commercial capital, which has faced a recent onslaught.
Fighting forces are to also pull back from the Castello Road, a key thoroughfare and access route into Aleppo, and create a “demilitarized zone” around it.
Also Monday, the United States and Russia will begin preparations for the creation of a Joint Implementation Centre that will involve information sharing needed to define areas controlled by the al-Qaida-linked group Fath al-Sham, previously known as the Nusra Front, and other opposition groups in areas “of active hostilities.”
The centre is expected to be established a week later, and is to launch a broader effort toward delineating other territories in control of various groups.
As part of the arrangement, Russia is expected to keep Syrian air force planes from bombing areas controlled by the opposition. The United States has committed to help weaken Fath al-Sham, the extremist group that has intermingled with the US-backed opposition in places.
A resumption of political dialogue between the government and opposition under U.N. mediation, which was halted amid an upsurge in fighting in April, will be sought over the longer term.
Syria’s civil war has killed as many as 500,000 people and sent millions fleeing their homes within Syria and into exile.
Kerry said this “new equation” offers an opportunity to find a peaceful solution and reverse the current trend of “creating more terrorists” and more destruction.
Who’s on board
Kerry said the U.S.-supported opposition and other fighters will be called upon to set themselves apart from the radical Islamic State group and the Nusra Front.
Lavrov said through a translator, “The Syrian government has been informed of these arrangements and is ready to fulfill them.”
How the arrangement came together
The Geneva negotiating session lasted more than 13 hours and capped a flurry of meetings between the two diplomats in recent days. Kerry and Lavrov met four times since a previous Geneva meeting on August 26, and Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin discussed the matter at a summit in China.
What makes this deal different
The United States and Russia, ultimately, are to find themselves fighting together against the Islamic State group and Nusra, and embarking on unprecedented information-sharing - aimed at dispelling longstanding mistrust between the two powers over the Syria conflict.
Kerry acknowledged “confusion” between Nusra and “legitimate opposition groups” that had led to a “fraying” of a cease-fire that was shepherded earlier this year by the US and Russia and brought a badly-needed, if temporary, respite to Syrian civilians for several weeks.