- City largely calm on Thursday, with shell killing one person
- Diplomats attempting to salvage peace process for 5-year war
The U.S. and Russia reached an agreement extending a “cessation of hostilities” in parts of Syria to the besieged northern city of Aleppo as diplomats try to salvage talks aimed at resolving a five-year-old civil war.
The cease-fire, which went into effect at midnight Thursday in Syria, has resulted in “an overall decrease in violence, even though there have been reports of continued fighting in some locations,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “To ensure this continues in a sustainable way, we are coordinating closely with Russia to finalize enhanced monitoring efforts of this renewed cessation.”
The streets of Aleppo were largely calm on Thursday, with one death reported after a shell crashed into a government-held area, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said by e-mail. At least 285 people have died in 13 days of violence in the city, SOHR added.
Ending an upsurge of fighting around Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city and main commercial hub before the war, is crucial to restoring a broader truce brokered in February by Russia and the U.S. Syrian rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad traded rockets and bombs across Aleppo and its outskirts for 13 days as the government renewed attempts to retake the rest of the city and the province.
“Our aim here ultimately is to get the cessation back to credible enforcement or a credible state in the coming days and weeks,” Toner told reporters in Washington on Wednesday. The fighting “needs to stop,” he said.
An earlier, temporary truce that began last weekend only covered portions of east Damascus and the port city of Latakia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday in Moscow that an accord was near after holding talks with the UN’s envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura. It could pave the way for a new round of talks between the government and opposition in Geneva. Those discussions broke down last month when a key opposition group walked out and fighting spiked in Syria.
“May is going to be an important month for Syria and for all of us,” de Mistura said Tuesday. If hostilities cease in Aleppo, then “we will be restarting and pushing also for the humanitarian access and for the intra-Syrian talks. Everything is connected, nothing is a condition but everything is connected,” he said.