Breakthrough Deal: This is What Russia and US Agreed to Do in Syria

© AFP 2022 / DELIL SOULEIMANResidents gather at the site of a bomb attack in Syria's northeastern city of Qamishli on July 27, 2016
Residents gather at the site of a bomb attack in Syria's northeastern city of Qamishli on July 27, 2016 - Sputnik International
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry have reached a breakthrough agreement on Syria following marathon talks in what is the closest the international community has come to resolving the conflict, but implementing the deal will be an even bigger challenge due to the sheer number of stakeholders involved.

During a press briefing on September 9, Lavrov described the agreement as a "significant, practical and concrete" package, comprising five documents that will not be made public since they contain "rather sensitive and serious information." For his part, Kerry referred to the plan as "a more proscriptive and far-reaching approach than we have been able to put together to date."

​This is what Russia and the United States have agreed upon.

Women react as they walk along a street after they were evacuated with others by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016 - Sputnik International
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The first step involves securing a nationwide ceasefire that no one, including Damascus-led forces and armed opposition groups, is allowed to violate. This involves the Syrian government refraining from conducting airstrikes in areas where the so-called moderate opposition is located. These regions have been outlined "with very real specificity," Kerry said.

The secession of hostilities will be introduced for a 48-hour period at sunset on September 12 and will be reapplied for an additional 48 hours if it holds.

"This requires halting all attacks, including aerial bombardments and any attempts to gain additional territory at the expense of the parties to the cessation. It requires unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to all of the besieged and the hard-to-reach areas, including Aleppo," Kerry explained.

© Sputnik / Mikhail Alaeddin / Go to the photo bankDestroyed buildings of the Syrian Air Force school in Aleppo, Syria
Destroyed buildings of the Syrian Air Force school in Aleppo, Syria - Sputnik International
Destroyed buildings of the Syrian Air Force school in Aleppo, Syria

If all stakeholders adhere to the ceasefire for at least seven days, Russia and the United States will move to the second stage.

Smoke rises from villages in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria. file photo - Sputnik International
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​The second step involves both sides establishing a Joint Implementation Center and, according to Kerry, "working together to develop military strikes" against al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's offshoot in Syria that has recently claimed to have severed ties with the terrorist organization, and Daesh, the brutal group that still controls large areas in Iraq and Syria.

"I want to emphasize these measures can only be implemented effectively if all the parties live up to their obligations," America's top diplomat observed, adding that the agreement is not "based on trust," but rather "on a way of providing oversight and compliance through mutual interest and other things."

This is something that has also been a source of major concern for Moscow. Lavrov warned that "no one can give 100 percent guarantees" that the deal will bring peace to Syria since multiple stakeholders with conflicting agendas are "involved in this puzzle."

© AFP 2022 / Omar haj kadourFighters from the former Al-Nusra Front -- renamed Fateh al-Sham Front after breaking from Al-Qaeda -- advance at an armament school after they announced they seiged control of two military academies and a third military position on August 6, 2016, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said
Fighters from the former Al-Nusra Front -- renamed Fateh al-Sham Front after breaking from Al-Qaeda -- advance at an armament school after they announced they seiged control of two military academies and a third military position on August 6, 2016, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said - Sputnik International
Fighters from the former Al-Nusra Front -- renamed Fateh al-Sham Front after breaking from Al-Qaeda -- advance at an armament school after they announced they seiged control of two military academies and a third military position on August 6, 2016, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said

Lavrov mentioned the "physical separation" of terrorists from moderate opposition on the ground as "the key priority."

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Russia's top diplomat said that the Syrian government was on board with the plan and ready to fulfil its obligations. For his part, Kerry said that the opposition "has indicated they're prepared" to meet the "standards that we have established" providing that Damascus proves that it is serious about the deal and the ceasefire holds.

The agreement, Gazeta.ru observed, "could dramatically alter the Syrian conflict" since it is possible that Russia and the US will "present a united front against terrorists."

Dr. Theodore Karasik, the senior advisor at Gulf State Analytics, warned that the agreement could suffer the same fate that was in store for the first ceasefire deal that came into force in February.

"The situation on the ground is constantly changing. It resembles the Tower of Babel where no one is able to reach any agreement with anyone. This means that any long-term deal could be doomed," he told the newspaper.

This is why both Lavrov and Kerry have repeatedly urged everyone involved to adhere to the plan. If they do, the deal could "reduce violence, ease suffering, and resume movement towards a negotiated peace and a political transition in Syria," as Kerry put it. "We believe that the plan as it is set forth – if implemented, if followed – has the ability to provide a turning point, a moment of change," he added.

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