Syrian opposition groups agree to respect two-week truce

Free Syrian Army fighters © Khalil Ashawi
Armed opposition groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad say they will respect a two-week truce which begins at midnight local time on Friday. They warned, however, that the government must not launch attacks in the name of fighting terrorism.

"The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) confirms the agreement of the Free Syrian Army factions and the armed opposition to a temporary truce from midnight Saturday," an HNC statement said, as quoted by Reuters.

However, the HNC said the government and its allies must not use the "proposed text to continue the hostile operations against the opposition factions under the excuse of fighting terrorism.”

The HNC said that more than 100 armed groups have supported the truce agreement, and that it will circulate a list of those which have agreed later on Friday, Sputnik reported. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Friday that he had received information that all parties expected to take part in the ceasefire have said they are ready to do so, according to Russian media. 

Speaking at a meeting of officials from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Putin said the peace process would be difficult, but stressed that there are no alternatives. 

On Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that Moscow is not discussing alternative plans for a political settlement in Syria. 

“We’re perplexed by our Western partners, the US included, mentioning the existence of some kind of ‘Plan B,’ Nothing is known on that one, we are considering no alternative plans,” Bognanov told the ‘Middle East: From Violence to Security’ conference in Moscow.

The US-Russia brokered ceasefire was announced on February 22 by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama. It does not apply to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra, or “other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council,” according to a joint statement

It will apply to the Syrian government, "moderate" opposition fighters, and Kurds, all of whom will be required to lay down their arms.

The truce will be monitored by a task force co-chaired by Moscow and Washington.