U.S., Russia announce plan to bring about ceasefire in Syria

Mideast Syria Russia_174513

A Syrian solder keeps watch as local leaders and elders sign a declaration pledging to abide by a truce in Maarzaf, about 15 kilometers west of Hama, Syria, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The Russian military has helped mediate signing the document. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

(CNN) — The U.S. and Russia announced a plan Friday to bring about a ceasefire in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“Today we are announcing an arrangement that we think has the capability of sticking but it’s dependent on people’s choices,” Kerry said in Geneva.

Appearing alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Kerry said the pact calls for the Syrian government and the opposition to respect a nationwide ceasefire scheduled to take effect at sundown on Monday.

He added that the accord will also prevent the air forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from flying combat missions anywhere that the opposition is present, calling this provision the “bedrock of the agreement,” labeling Assad’s air force the “main driver of civilian casualties” and migrant flows.

“That should put an end to the barrel bombs, an end to the indiscriminate bombing of civilian neighborhoods,” Kerry said.

Kerry and Lavrov said that once the cessation of hostilities holds for seven days, the US and Russia would begin working on military coordination in an effort to target al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al Nusra Front.

“Going after Nusra is not a concession to anybody, it is profoundly in the interest of the United States to target al Qaeda,” Kerry said, saying the group was planning attacks both in and outside of Syria, including attacks directed at the U.S.

“If groups within the legitimate opposition want to retain their legitimacy, they need to distance themselves in every way possible from Nusra and Daesh,” Kerry added.

Kerry said this cooperation would entail “some sharing of information,” with Russia pertaining to the delineation of the various groups on the battlefield. After the seven-day cessation of hostilities and delivery of aid, “US and Russian experts will work together to defeat Daesh and Nusra,” Kerry added.

Lavrov said that the Syrian regime had been informed of the terms of the arrangement and was prepared to adhere to them.

Kerry also said that the accord would allow for humanitarian access to the besieged areas of Syria, such as Aleppo, and provide for the creation of a demilitarized areas around that city.

Kerry reiterated several times that the deal was dependent on the adherence of all parties, both regime and opposition, and not built on trust.

“It is an opportunity and not more than that until it becomes a reality,” Kerry said.

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