US, Russia agree to ceasefire in Syria

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The United States and Russia agreed Monday to a ceasefire in Syria that is scheduled to take effect Saturday.

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“I am gratified to see the final arrangements concluded today for a cessation of hostilities in Syria and call on all parties to accept and fully comply with its terms,” Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryCutting corners in a federal campaign is criminal Navy investigation concludes Iran broke international law by detaining sailors Top Democrat wants Obama to block Boeing's deal with Iran MORE said in a statement. “If implemented and adhered to, this cessation will not only lead to a decline in violence, but also continue to expand the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian supplies to besieged areas and support a political transition to a government that is responsive to the desires of the Syrian people.” 

In a joint statement Monday, the United States and Russia said officials from the two countries will lead a United Nations task force to enforce the ceasefire and work on mechanisms to monitor compliance.

“To achieve this goal and to promote an effective and sustainable cessation of hostilities, the Russian Federation and the United States will establish a communication hotline and, if necessary and appropriate, a working group to exchange relevant information after the cessation of hostilities has gone into effect,” the statement says.

The Syrian regime and opposition groups now have until noon Friday to agree to the terms of the ceasefire.

Under the agreement, both sides would have to stop seeking more territory, allow humanitarian aid to pass through controlled areas, only use “proportionate” force in self-defense and work to release detainees, particularly women and children.

Regime and Russian forces would have to stop airstrikes against opposition groups that the United States and Russia confirm are parties to the agreement.

And opposition forces would have to stop using rockets, mortars, anti-tank guided missiles and other weapons to attack regime forces.

The agreement comes after a self-imposed deadline to implement a ceasefire by last Friday passed with little progress.

The United States and Russia had agreed to a cessation of hostilities earlier this month with a goal of implementing the ceasefire within a week. But Russia continued its military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, bombarding opposition groups in northern Syria.

The agreement announced Monday does not apply to airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate al Nusra or other U.N.-designated terrorist groups, according to the statement.

The task force will work on delineating the territory held by ISIS, al Nusra and other terrorist groups, facilitate communications among all parties to promote compliance and rapidly de-escalate tensions, resolve allegations of non-compliance and refer persistent non-compliant behavior to the ministers of the so-called International Syrian Support Group.

“We are all aware of the significant challenges ahead,” Kerry said in his statement. “Over the coming days, we will be working to secure commitments from key parties that they will abide by the terms of this cessation of hostilities and further develop modalities for monitoring and enforcement.”

--This report was updated at 1:48 p.m.