Syria Conflict: Ceasefire Agreed For Midnight, Backed By Russia

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Moscow City: The Syrian government and rebel groups have agreed to a ceasefire from midnight (22:00 GMT) across the country, followed by peace talks.

The deal was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin and confirmed by the Turkish foreign ministry.

Russia and Turkey, which back opposing sides in the bitter conflict, will act as guarantors. Turkey said all fighting including air strikes would be halted. The truce does not apply to some jihadist groups.

So-called Islamic State and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front) are both excluded.  But the ceasefire reportedly does cover the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, which had been a sticking-point in negotiations.

Earlier this month, Moscow and Ankara negotiated a ceasefire in Syria’s second city, Aleppo that led to tens of thousands of rebel fighters and civilians being evacuated from an enclave besieged by government forces.

Previous ceasefire initiatives this year brokered by the UN, or the US acting with Russia, quickly collapsed. He described the deal as “fragile” but he praised the agreements as the result of the work of Russia’s defence and foreign ministries with Moscow’s partners in the region.

He added that he agreed with a proposal by the defence ministry to reduce Russia’s military presence in Syria but made it clear Moscow would “continue fighting international terrorism and supporting the Syrian government”.

A spokesman for the Syrian opposition National Coalition told AFP news agency it backed the ceasefire. “The National Coalition expresses support for the agreement and urges all parties to abide by it,” Ahmed Ramadan said.

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