Russia, US pressing parties in Syria to abide by ceasefire – joint statement

© Hosam Katan
Moscow and Washington have reconfirmed their efforts in trying to reach a peaceful solution in Syria, saying they aim to "redouble efforts" to accomplish a political settlement of the conflict.

The joint statement by co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which was released on Monday recognized "the progress that has been made with respect to the cessation of hostilities," but also highlighted that there have been certain "difficulties... in several areas of the country."

To increase efforts toward peace, Russia and US have been "using influence" with parties on the ground, aiming to "press them to abide" by the cessation of hostilities agreement that went into effect on February. Both Moscow and Washington have also called on regional forces to "refrain from disproportionate responses to provocations and demonstrate restraint."

On Monday, the Syrian army announced that a so-called regime of calm had once again been extended in the northern city of Aleppo and its surrounding areas, Syria’s government-linked SANA news agency reported. The temporary ceasefire in Aleppo will last until midnight Wednesday. Aleppo which has recently been the scene of the county’s heaviest fighting, has been included among areas where local ceasefires have been applied following an agreement with the participation of Moscow and Washington last week.

Demanding that "indiscriminate attacks on civilians" are ceased by all parties, Russia has also said that it would work with the Syrian authorities in order to "minimize aviation operations over areas that are predominantly inhabited by civilians or parties to the cessation."

Washington meanwhile will work with "regional allies" by assisting them in prevention of any "flow of fighters, weapons or financial support to terrorist organizations across their borders." The ISSG co-chairs said that further efforts should be put in preventing any "material or financial support" to Islamic State, Al-Nusra and other groups designated as terrorist organizations by the UN Security Council.

Speaking to US Secretary of State John Kerry on the phone on Monday, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said that measures must be taken to stop "extremists" in Syria being supplied via Turkish territory.

Saying that the joint efforts "have brought about a significant decrease in violence" in a number of Syrian regions, the statement added: "The Russian Federation and United States are determined to redouble efforts to reach a political settlement of the Syrian conflict consistent with UNSCR 2254 through the intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva under UN auspices."

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The international community has also been concentrating efforts on delivering assistance and humanitarian aid to people in Syria. With the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, such assistance has reached over 255,000 people in besieged areas and more than 470,000 people in hard-to-reach areas, the statement said, adding that "many Syrians with urgent needs have yet to be reached."