US-Russia agreement calls for cease-fire in southwest Syria – Washington Post
The cease-fire goes into effect Sunday at noon Damascus time, according to U.S. officials and the Jordanian government, which is also involved in the deal.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who accompanied Trump in his meeting with Putin, said the understanding is designed to reduce violence in an area of Syria near Jordan’s border that is critical to the U.S. ally’s security.
It’s a “very complicated part of the Syrian battlefield,” Tillerson told reporters after the U.S. and Russian leaders met for more than two hours on the sidelines of a global summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Of the agreement, he said, “I think this is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria.”
For years, the former Cold War foes have been backing opposing sides in Syria’s war. Moscow has staunchly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, supporting Syrian forces militarily since 2015. Washington has backed rebels fighting Assad. Both the U.S. and Russia oppose Islamic State militants and say they’re focused on rooting out the extremist group.
The potential pitfalls for the cease-fire are clear — not least the challenge of enforcing it.
Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russian military police would monitor the new truce. But Tillerson said that was still being worked out. A senior U.S. State Department official said the two countries were close to a deal on that issue and hoped to finalize it in the coming days, raising the prospect it could take effect Sunday with no clear sense of who is policing it.
That the deal was announced before all the details were ironed out was a clear indication of how eager the U.S. and Russia were to cast their leaders’ first meeting as a success. Officials said the deal had been in the works for weeks or months, but came together in time for the meeting.
The deal marks a new level of involvement for the Trump administration in trying to resolve Syria’s civil war.
Trump ordered some 60 cruise missiles to be fired at a Syrian air base in April after accusing Assad’s forces of a deadly chemical weapons attack. But his top military and national security advisers pointedly said they had no intentions of intervening to oust Assad. And they stopped short of endorsing Russian-led or U.N. peace mediation efforts between Assad’s government and rebel groups.
Israel also is part of the agreement, one U.S. official said, who like others wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. Like Jordan, Israel shares a border with the southern part of Syria and has been concerned about a spillover of violence as well as an amassing of Iranian-aligned forces in the south of the country.
Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Momani confirmed the accord in a statement that made no reference to Israel’s participation. Syrian government forces and its allies will stay on one side of an agreed demarcation line, and rebel fighters will stick to the other side. The goal is also to enable aid to reach this area of Syria, Momani told state media. U.S. officials said the U.S., Russia and Jordan had only agreed on that demarcation line last week, clearing the way for a cease-fire to be worked out.
The deal is separate from an agreement that Russia, Turkey and Iran struck earlier this year to try to establish “de-escalation zones” in Syria with reduced bloodshed. The U.S., wary of Iran’s involvement, stayed away from that effort. Follow-up talks this week in Kazakhstan were unable to produce agreement on finalizing a cease-fire in those zones.
Previous cease-fires in Syria have collapsed or failed to reduce violence for long, and it was unclear whether this deal would be any better.