Clashes, air raids tarnish Syria truce

Friday 30th, December 2016 / 22:33 Written by
Clashes, air raids tarnish Syria truce

BEIRUT: Clashes, shelling and air raids in western Syria marred a Russian- and Turkish-backed ceasefire that aims to end nearly six years of war and lead to peace talks between rebels and a government emboldened by recent battlefield success.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, announced the ceasefire on Thursday after forging the agreement with Turkey, a longtime backer of the opposition.
The truce went into force at midnight but monitors and rebels reported almost immediate clashes, and violence appeared to escalate later on Friday as warplanes bombed areas in the country’s northwest, they said.
The ceasefire is meant as a first step towards fresh peace talks, after several failed international efforts this year to halt the conflict, which began as a peaceful uprising and descended into civil war in 2011.
It has resulted in more than 300,000 deaths, displaced more than 11 million people and drawn in the military involvement of world and regional powers, including Moscow and
Ankara.
The agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey, which said they will guarantee the truce, is the first of three ceasefire deals this year not to involve the United States or United Nations.
Moscow is keen to push ahead with peace talks, hosted by its ally Kazakhstan. But the first challenge will be maintaining the truce, which looked increasingly shaky on Friday.
Syrian government warplanes carried out nearly 20 raids against rebels in several towns along the provincial boundary between Idlib and Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. — Reuters

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