Syrian opposition supports ceasefire

Children play near damaged buildings in the rebel held historic southern town of Bosra al-Sham, DeraaSyria’s opposition indicated on Wednesday it was ready for a two-week truce in Syria, saying it was a chance to test the seriousness of the other side’s commitment to a U.S.-Russian plan for a cessation of hostilities.

Combatants are required to say whether they will agree to the “cessation of hostilities” in the five-year war by noon on Friday (1000 GMT), and to halt fighting on Saturday. The United Nations hopes the planned halt will provide a breathing space for Syrian peace talks to resume.

A statement seen by Reuters from the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee, which groups political and armed opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said it “views a temporary two-week truce as a chance to establish how serious the other side is in committing to the points of the agreement.”

But it objected to Russia being a guarantor of the truce alongside the United States, saying Russia was a direct party to the conflict, and that the plan ignored the role Assad allies Russia and Iran were playing.

Russia intervened in the conflict on the side of Assad in September, and Iranian fighters have provided crucial support to the Syrian army in its fight against insurgents.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed caution about a plan to stop the fighting in Syria, which has killed 250,000 people and created a refugee crisis in Europe.

The last round of peace talks in Geneva broke up earlier this month without progress after the Syrian government launched a Russian-backed offensive on the city of Aleppo, where more fighting was reported on Wednesday.

Obama told reporters that if some progress was made in Syria, that would lead to a political process to end the war there. “We are very cautious about raising expectations on this,” he said.

Although U.S officials have raised the question of a political transition in Damascus, Assad, backed by Russia, shows no sign of stepping aside.

The cessation of hostilities plan does not include Islamic State or the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate that is widely deployed in opposition-held areas.

The opposition has expressed fears government forces backed by the Russian air force will continue to attack rebels under the pretext of targeting the Nusra Front. (Courtesy Reuters)

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