Secretary of State John Kerry announced today that he and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, had hammered out the outlines of a ceasefire for Syria, claiming that the two sides were as close as ever to an understanding. At time of writing, the specifics of the agreement have not yet been released, but only a day before, some signs began to emerge among the warring factions that a fragile break in the fighting might be arranged. Reuters:
Assad said on Saturday he was ready for a ceasefire on condition “terrorists” did not use a lull in fighting to their advantage and that countries backing the insurgents stopped supporting them.
The Syrian opposition had earlier said it had agreed to the “possibility” of a temporary truce, provided there were guarantees Damascus’s allies, including Russia, would cease fire, sieges were lifted and aid deliveries were allowed country-wide.
Those are some big “ifs” there. Secretary Kerry on some level still seems convinced that the Russians are playing it straight here and genuinely want to see the fighting stop, rather than merely playing for time. As Adam Garfinkle wrote a week ago when the first ceasefire deal was announced (whose deadline came and went earlier this week):
The “ceasefire” is not well defined. We know it leaves out the Salafis, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, for example, so that we and others can keep bombing them. But more to the point, remember that the Syrian regime and its Russian “lawyers” insist that all rebel groups are composed of “terrorists.” There is therefore much uncertainty, to put it generously, that the regime and the Russians will cease attacking rebel groups trying to hold onto Aleppo even after a “ceasefire” goes into effect.
We will see what happens. But color us surprised if the Russians and their client sign onto any kind of agreement that doesn’t put Assad’s opponents at a meaningful disadvantage, merely out of humanitarian scruples.