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Friday, July 7, 2017

US, Russia announce Syria cease-fire from Sunday noon

The Associated Press, Hamburg , GermanyFriday, 7 July 2017 Text size A A A

The United States and Russia struck an agreement on Friday on a cease-fire in southwest Syria, crowning President Donald Trump’s first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is the first US-Russian effort under Trump’s presidency to stem Syria’s six-year civil war.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Hamburg on July 7, 2017. (AP)

The cease-fire goes into effect on Sunday at noon Damascus time, according to US officials and the Jordanian government, which is also involved in the deal.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who accompanied Trump in his meeting with Putin, said the understanding is designed to reduce violence in an area of Syria near Jordan’s border and which is critical to the US ally’s security.

It’s a “very complicated part of the Syrian battlefield,” Tillerson told reporters after the US and Russian leaders met for about 2 hours and 15 minutes on the sidelines of a global summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Of the agreement, he said: “I think this is our first indication of the US and Russia being able to work together in Syria.”

For years, the former Cold War foes have been backing opposing sides in Syria’s war. Moscow has staunchly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, supporting Syrian forces militarily since 2015. Washington has backed rebels fighting Assad. Both the US and Russia oppose ISIS militants and say they’re focused on rooting out the extremist group.

Russia’s top diplomat, who accompanied Putin in the meeting with Trump, said Russian military police will monitor the new truce. All sides will try to ensure aid deliveries to the area, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

The deal marks a new level of involvement for the Trump administration in trying to resolve Syria’s civil war.

Trump ordered some 60 cruise missiles to be fired at a Syrian air base in April after accusing Assad’s forces of a deadly chemical weapons attack. But his top military and national security advisers pointedly said they had no intentions of intervening to oust Assad. And they stopped short of endorsing Russian-led or UN peace mediation efforts between Assad’s government and rebel groups.

Israel also is part of the agreement, one US official said, who like others wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter ahead of Tillerson’s official announcement and demanded anonymity. Like Jordan, Israel shares a border with the southern part of Syria and has been concerned about a spillover of violence as well as an amassing of Iranian-aligned forces in the south of the country.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Momani confirmed an accord involving his country, the US and Russia. He made no reference to Israel’s participation. Syrian government forces and its allies will stay on one side of an agreed demarcation line, and rebel fighters will stick to the other side. The goal is also to enable aid to reach this area of Syria, Momani told state media.

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