21:53 GMT16 January 2021
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    The long-awaited deal on Syria that Russian and American diplomats reached last Friday has been met with cautious optimism, with Germany's business newspaper Handelsblatt calling it quite possibly "the brightest ray of hope" for the country ravaged by more than five years of war.

    The agreement paves the way for a ceasefire that is expected to come into force on September 12.

    "Moscow has more opportunities than Washington to ensure compliance with the agreement. If US-backed rebels or other opponents of President Bashar al-Assad do not respect the ceasefire, Russia will be able to launch airstrikes against them or let Assad's forces do that," the newspaper asserted.

    For its part, Washington is ostensibly limited in its ability to make sure that so-called moderate armed groups adhere to the agreement. If Damascus violates the ceasefire, the US will refrain from direct military action against the Syrian Arab Army, Handelsblatt added.

    Ramouseh district in south Aleppo liberated by the Syrian army. (File)
    © Sputnik / Michael Alaeddin
    Ramouseh district in south Aleppo liberated by the Syrian army. (File)

    "The US strategy [in Syria] depends heavily on Russia's good will," the newspaper noted. "If Assad violates the ceasefire, Moscow will have to persuade him by refusing to provide military aid to Syria." If Russia decides not to pressure Assad, "the US will have no other option but to say goodbye to the ceasefire."

    During a joint press briefing on September 9, both Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry said that implementing the deal will be a challenge due to the sheer number of stakeholders involved. The Syrian war is waged by various states and non-state entities with conflicting agendas. As a result, it will not take much to derail the upcoming secession of hostilities.

    This is why Lavrov and Kerry urged all the parties to seize this opportunity to reduce violence in Syria. Russia's top diplomat said that Damascus was on board with the plan; his American counterpart announced that rebel groups were also ready to adhere to the plan.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands at the conclusion of their press conference following their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland where they discussed the crisis in Syria September 9, 2016
    © REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands at the conclusion of their press conference following their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland where they discussed the crisis in Syria September 9, 2016

    The latest agreement on Syria contains two major steps. The first stage involves securing a nationwide ceasefire that no one, including Damascus-led forces and armed opposition groups, is allowed to violate. If all stakeholders adhere to the ceasefire for at least seven days, Russia and the United States will move to the second stage.

    The second stage involves both sides establishing a Joint Implementation Center and working on preparing joint military operations against al-Nusra Front and Daesh.

    "If peace is restored in Syria and Assad remains in power, it will be Moscow's success," Handelsblatt said. Washington will have to "swallow this pill" since Assad's removal is not the biggest challenge in the Middle East that the US has to tackle. The key priority for the White House, according to the newspaper, is degrading and destroying Daesh.

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    Tags:
    Syrian crisis, Syrian ceasefire, deal, Syrian conflict, Daesh, Al-Nusra Front, Bashar al-Assad, John Kerry, Sergei Lavrov, Syria, US, Russia
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