Syria Signals End to Ceasefire While U.S. and Russia Express Hope it Will Last

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In what may signal the crumbling of the latest–and perhaps final–ceasefire arrangement in Syria under the Obama administration, the Syrian government on Monday voiced its renewed commitment to the fight. But America’s chief negotiator in the week-long deal, Secretary of State John Kerry, said the end of the ceasefire isn’t up to the Syrian government. Only the two main architects of the fragile agreement, the U.S. and Russia, could officially declare its end.

In effect since last Monday, the ceasefire called for a halting of airstrikes or ground attacks for the following parties: Syrian government forces, the rebel parties opposed to the regime, Russia, and the U.S. Two terrorist groups, the Islamic State and a rebel group previously affiliated with al-Qaeda, were exempt from the ceasefire.

The early parts of last week saw a decrease in reported attacks and casualties, but that began to change by the latter part of the week. Tensions flared anew when on Saturday, a U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed 60 Syrian soldiers by the Russians’ count. The U.S. Central Command said the strikes were aimed at ISIS positions, and amounted to an “intelligence failure.” The U.S. expressed its regret for its unintentional breach of the ceasefire. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad termed the attack a “flagrant aggression” while implying the U.S. was covertly supporting ISIS, the one common enemy of all parties engaged in the ceasefire.

On Monday, Assad said in a statement that his regime will “continue fulfilling its national duties in fighting terrorism in order to bring back security and stability.” Syria deems all rebel groups terrorists, even the moderate cells the U.S. supports and trains. Assad pointed to those groups as undermining the agreement.

It seems Kerry was unaware of Assad’s claim that the ceasefire had ended. “It would be good if they didn’t talk first to the press but if they talked to the people who are actually negotiating this,” he said. “We just began today to see real movement of humanitarian goods, and let’s see where we are. We’re happy to have a conversation with them.”

Humanitarian relief to Syria’s most besieged cities was a key element of the deal. Assad initially refused to sign off on U.N. aid convoys trying to provide food and other supplies to civilians outside of Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. He has since authorized aid deliveries, but the U.N. said access to areas that need aid are nearly inaccessible because of fighting, a lack of security, and administrative delays.

The Red Cross did say that it was able to deliver food, water, and hygiene supplies for up to 84,000 people in Talbiseh in Homs province. Citizens in Aleppo, caught in between the rebel-held east and the regime-held west, have yet to receive aid. A U.N. aid convoy is caught in a buffer zone near the Turkey-Syria border, just north of Aleppo, where as many as 250,000 citizens wait for food and other supplies.

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at



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