The U.S State Department has announced a ceasefire to take effect in Aleppo, Syria. The State Department added that the US and Russia had reached an agreement to bring about “a cessation of violence in Aleppo and surrounding areas.
The talks have been going on for weeks, ending on Tuesday, May 2nd, 2016. According to State Department spokesman Mark Toner, the violence, while it has somewhat dissipated, continues. He said of the violence, “Attacks directed against Syria’s civilian population can never be justified, and these must stop immediately,” Toner said in a statement Wednesday.
“Our objective remains, and has always been, a single nationwide cessation of hostilities covering all of Syria — not a series of local truces.”
The UK Ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft stated, “This council has an obligation to the people of Aleppo. We have an obligation to show that we are working for their protection; that we are trying to find that elusive political settlement that will end this war.”
More significantly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, on Tuesday, that Russian and US officials would be “looking at the same maps” when they monitor activity to confirm the carrying out of the ceasefire.
“They will be analyzing proposals, and they will work together to make sure that any violations are nipped in the bud. Probably this is a major step forward toward a more intensive coordination of the efforts by Russia and the U.S.,” he said.
Russia has made overtures to extend a so-called “regime of silence” which currently exists in Latakia and Damascus, to Aleppo. This agreement was reached five days ago, also between the US and Russia. It empowers both Russian and US military forces to enforce a ceasefire between all parties, outside of terrorist organizations, which are not part of the agreement (or are afforded any protection through the ceasefire agreement).
Meanwhile, clashes between Assad forces and rebel forces have only increased in recent weeks, with much of the fighting centered around western Aleppo. The US and other Western powers, such as Germany and France, are pressuring Russia to use its considerable influence over Assad to end the hostilities there.
In recent week, scores of people, including civilians, have been killed in the fighting. Rebel forces have been shelling Syrian government installations, and the Syrian government has responded to the attacks.
Just this past Monday, May 2nd, rocket attacks launched by rebels at government installations killed 17 people according to Syrian state media. These attacks were in response to a Syrian government airstrike on a rebel-held hospital that allegedly killed the ‘last pediatrician’ in the city.
So far, 55 are counted among the dead, according to Doctors without borders, in the last week of fighting.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said this about the hospital air strike, “The bottom line is there is no justification for this horrific violence that targets civilians or medical facilities or first responders no matter who it is, whether it’s a member of the opposition retaliating or the regime in its brutality against the civilians which has continued for five years.”
On Wednesday, 22 airstrikes were conducted near Damascus, already bringing to an end the truce that had been announced just this past Friday.
Whether or not this latest announced ceasefire will hold in Aleppo remains to be seen.