Syrian civil war - ceasefire agreed, backed by Russia and Turkey.
In a stunning announcement today made by Russian president Vladimir Putin, both the Syrian government and rebel groups have agreed a nationwide ceasefire from midnight local time (22:00 GMT) on Thursday, to be followed by peace talks. In Damascus, the Syrian army said the ceasefire came after the “successes achieved by the armed forces”, an apparent reference to the capture of rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo this month. A senior rebel official said the deal, which was negotiated in Ankara with Turkish and Russian backing, would cover all rebel-held areas in the country.
The deal was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin and confirmed by the Turkish foreign ministry. Russia and Turkey, which back opposing sides in the bitter conflict, will act as guarantors.
A number of Syrian rebel spokesmen have confirmed the deal, but certain jihadist groups are excluded. A spokesman for Syria's leading opposition body, the National Coalition, told news agencies it backed the ceasefire."The National Coalition expresses support for the agreement and urges all parties to abide by it," Ahmed Ramadan told AFP.
The Syrian army said in a statement that so-called Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front) "and the groups affiliated to them" were not part of the agreement.
If the ceasefire holds up, it would be in stark contrast to the previous ceasefire initiatives this year brokered by the UN, or the US acting with Russia, which quickly collapsed. Peace talks are to begin within a month of the ceasefire, and would be held in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana. If this ceasefire holds, and that's a big "IF", it might be the first step in ending the the five year long brutal Syrian civil war where at least 300,000 people are believed to have been killed in the fighting which followed the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, and caused four million Syrians to flee the country and seek refuge in neighbouring states or Europe.