A look at some of the key points in an “arrangement” announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, aimed at halting fighting in Syria and moving toward a political transition after five and a half years of combat between President Bashar Assad’s forces and opposition rebels.
What the arrangement says:
A nationwide ceasefire by Assad’s forces and the U.S.-backed opposition is set to begin across Syria at sundown Monday. That sets off a seven-day period that will allow for humanitarian aid and civilian traffic into Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and commercial capital, which has faced a recent onslaught.
Fighting forces are to also pull back from the Castello Road, a key thoroughfare and access route into Aleppo, and create a “demilitarized zone” around it.
Also Monday, the United States and Russia will begin preparations for the creation of a Joint Implementation Center that will involve information sharing needed to define areas controlled by the radical Nusra Front and opposition groups in areas “of active hostilities.”
The center is expected to be established a week later, and is to launch a broader effort toward delineating other territories in control of various groups.
As part of the arrangement, Russia is expected to keep Syrian air force planes from bombing areas controlled by the opposition. The United States has committed to help weaken the Nusra Front, an extremist group that has intermingled with the U.S.—backed opposition in places.
A resumption of political dialogue between the government and opposition under U.N. mediation, which was halted amid an upsurge in fighting in April, will be sought over the longer term.
Syria’s civil war has killed as many as 500,000 people and sent millions fleeing their homes within Syria and into exile.
Kerry said this “new equation” offers an opportunity to find a peaceful solution and reverse the current trend of “creating more terrorists” and more destruction.
Who's on board
Kerry said the U.S.-supported opposition and other fighters will be called upon to set themselves apart from the radical Islamic State group and the Nusra Front.
Lavrov said through a translator, “The Syrian government has been informed of these arrangements and is ready to fulfill them.”
The Geneva negotiating session lasted more than 13 hours and capped a flurry of meetings between the two diplomats in recent days. Kerry and Lavrov met four times since a previous Geneva meeting on Aug. 26, and Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin discussed the matter at a summit in China.
What makes this deal different
The United States and Russia, ultimately, are to find themselves fighting together against the Islamic State and Nusra, and embarking on unprecedented information-sharing aimed at dispelling longstanding mistrust between the two powers over the Syria conflict.
Kerry acknowledged “confusion” between Nusra and “legitimate opposition groups” that had led to a “fraying” of a ceasefire that was shepherded earlier this year by the U.S. and Russia and brought a badly-needed, if temporary, respite to Syrian civilians for several weeks.