Syrian Government and Rebel Groups Agree to Nationwide Ceasefire, Backed by Russia and Turkey


The Syrian government and rebel groups have agreed to a nationwide ceasefire from midnight local time (22:00 GMT) on Thursday, followed by peace talks.

The deal was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin and confirmed by the Turkish foreign ministry.

Russia and Turkey, which back opposing sides, will act as guarantors.

The rebel High Negotiations Committee (HNC), seen by the UN as the main opposition group, confirmed the deal, which excludes certain jihadist groups.

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.

Latest updates on Syria ceasefire

Only IS-held areas are excluded by the truce, so it will take in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, which had been a sticking-point in negotiations.

The HNC, the umbrella group representing Syria’s political and armed opposition factions, said that, because of the rebels’ limited resources against government forces and their factional allies, it was “not possible to continue” the fight.

Earlier this month, Moscow and Ankara negotiated a ceasefire in Syria’s second city, Aleppo, that led to tens of thousands of rebel fighters and civilians being evacuated from an enclave besieged by government forces.

Previous ceasefire initiatives this year brokered by the UN, or the US acting with Russia, quickly collapsed.

Mr Putin announced in Moscow that three documents had been signed:

  • An agreement between the Syrian government and the armed opposition on a ceasefire
  • Measures for overseeing the ceasefire
  • An agreement to start peace talks

He described the deal as “fragile” but he praised the agreements as the result of the work of Russia’s defence and foreign ministries with Moscow’s partners in the region.

He added that he agreed with a proposal by the defence ministry to reduce Russia’s military presence in Syria but made it clear Moscow would “continue fighting international terrorism and supporting the Syrian government”.

Peace talks, to begin within a month of the ceasefire, would be held in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana.

Key rebel groups including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham and Army of Islam factions have signed the ceasefire deal.

A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), a loose alliance of several moderate rebel factions under the HNC, said it would abide by the truce but would retaliate against violations by government forces and their allies.

FSA spokesman Osama Abu Zaid said it had had no direct talks with the Syrian government ahead of the ceasefire deal and still insisted that President Bashar al-Assad would have no place in the future of Syria.

At least 300,000 people are believed to have been killed in fighting that followed the uprising against President Assad in March 2011.

A further four million have fled the country to seek refuge in neighbouring states or Europe.