Assad assures Putin of ‘readiness’ to respect ceasefire: Kremlin

  • AFP, Moscow
  • Updated: Feb 24, 2016 17:38 IST
Civil defence members search for survivors after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in Aleppo. The Syrian President has assured its Russian ally that it is ready to respect the proposed ceasefire. (REUTERS)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has assured Russia’s Vladimir Putin of his government’s willingness to respect a ceasefire deal brokered by Moscow and Washington, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

The Kremlin said the two leaders discussed the deal in a phone call and that Assad noted that the proposals laid out in the agreement were an “important step in the direction of a political settlement.”

“In particular, (Assad) confirmed the readiness of the Syrian government to facilitate the establishment of a ceasefire,” it said in a statement.

The ceasefire agreement, which does not apply to jihadists like the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra Front, calls for a “cessation of hostilities” between regime forces and opposition groups from midnight Friday Damascus time (2200 GMT).

Putin and Assad “stressed the importance of continuing an uncompromising fight” against the IS group, Al-Nusra Front and “other terrorist groups included in the relevant UN Security Council list,” the Kremlin said.

Putin, whose air force is conducting a bombing campaign to support Assad’s troops on the ground, on Monday pledged to do “whatever is necessary” to get Damascus to uphold the deal after sealing the agreement with US President Barack Obama.

But some Washington officials have expressed doubt over whether Russia will respect the ceasefire.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the United States was considering a “Plan B” over Syria if Damascus and Moscow do not keep their end of the bargain.

Plan B ‘premature’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, insisted it was “premature” to speak of any other plans.

“We are fully and completely focused on the task defined by the two presidents,” he said.

“The most pressing task right now is to achieve a ceasefire when it comes to the groups who support the initiative of the two presidents.”

The foreign ministry struck a similar note, saying Moscow was not aware of “any Plan B” and that it was important to stick to the current deal.

“We are proceeding from the fact that so many efforts have been put into the preparation of a joint communique that it’s necessary now to implement it and not work out some additional plan Bs,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

“This may end up contravening the agreements that have been reached because the opposition may get the wrong impression that there is an alternative to the joint communique.”

Putin also spoke to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, with the Kremlin chief explaining to him “in detail the essence” of the US-Russian proposals.

“The Saudi king welcomed the concluded agreements and expressed his readiness to work together with Russia to implement them,” Moscow said.

Peskov said Putin was set to have a series of phone calls on Syria on Wednesday.

“Very intense contacts are underway,” he said.

Amid the flurry of diplomatic activity, a senior Assad political adviser, Busseina Shaaban, has arrived in Moscow, a spokesman for Vitaly Naumkin, a Russian academic who has taken part in talks on the Syrian crisis told AFP.

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