Cease-fire in southwest Syria takes effect

Cease-fire in southwest Syria takes effect
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A cease-fire in southwest Syria brokered by the U.S., Russia and Jordan took effect on Sunday at noon local time.

Ahmad al-Masalmeh, a local opposition activist who lives near the Jordanian border in Daraa, told The Associated Press it was calm in the moments after the cease-fire took effect.

“We’ve entered the cease-fire but there are no mechanisms to enforce it,” he added, according to the AP. "That’s what concerns people.”

National security adviser H.R. McMaster in a statement late Saturday said officials are "encouraged by the progress made to reach this agreement,” adding that de-escalation zones are a priority for the administration.

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“The United States remains committed to defeating ISIS, helping to end the conflict in Syria, reducing suffering, and enabling people to return to their homes,” he said. “This agreement is an important step toward these common goals."

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the cease-fire on Friday prior to President Trump’s first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Germany.

Tillerson called the agreement the “first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria.”

The U.S. has supported rebel groups seeking to oust President Bashar Assad in the civil war while Moscow has backed his government.

A senior State Department official told reporters that the cease-fire was an “important” first step to “what we envisioned to be a more complex and robust cease-fire arrangement and de-escalation arrangement with Syria, certainly more complex than ones we have tried in the past.”

Follow-up talks are expected to take place in Kazakhstan to finalize the agreement in other zones.

“There’s a lot of discussions ahead of us still,” the State Department official said, ”including how to monitor the cease fire, the rules that would govern the southwest de-escalation area. All of this will be the subject of ongoing talks.”