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Syria ceasefire brokered by US, Russia and Jordan goes into effect

Key international players in the Syria conflict agreed in May to establish four "de-escalation" zones in a potential breakthrough towards calming a war that has claimed an estimated 320,000 lives
Mohamad ABAZEED (AFP/File)
Israel was reportedly opposed to Russia monitoring a ceasefire, arguing the US should be in charge

A ceasefire in southwest Syria went into effect at noon on Sunday, after the a deal was brokered by US, Russia, and Jordan, a symbolic and rare show of cooperation between the US and Russia who have been on opposing sides of the six-year conflict.

Plans for the ceasefire deal were announced on Friday after an eagerly anticipated first meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

"Amman, Russian, American and Jordanian experts... agreed on a memorandum of understanding to create a de-escalation zone" in the regions of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after the nearly two and a half hour long meeting. "There will be a ceasefire in this zone from midday Damascus time on July 9."

There have been several ceasefire attempts in the region previously, but they mostly failed.

“I think this is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was quoted as saying by Reuters. "As a result of that we had a very lengthy discussion regarding other areas in Syria that we can continue to work together on to de-escalate the areas."

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been engaged in talks this year with Turkey and Iran over four so-called de-escalation zones in the war-torn country."

A US official told the Associated Press that Israel was "a part" of the agreement, but did not elaborate. Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Friday that while Israel was not directly involved in the talks to hammer out the ceasefire, senior Israeli officials were briefed on them,

According to the report, Israel was adamantly opposed to Russia monitoring a ceasefire and were arguing that the United States should be in charge of enforcing any agreement.

In a weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that, "Israel will welcome a genuine ceasefire in Syria, but this ceasefire should not allow the military consolidation of Iran and its satellites in Syria in general, and in southern Syria in particular."

He added that he had in-depth talks with Putin and the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and that they would consider Israel's demands.

"We will continue to monitor what is happening beyond our borders, while steadfastly insisting on our red lines: preventing the strengthening of Hezbollah against Syria, with the emphasis on supplying precision weapons, preventing Hezbollah from grounding near our border, or establishing Iranian military consolidation in all of Syria."

Regardless of Israel's demands, both the US and Russia have a shared interest in preventing Iran and Hezbollah from gaining further military ground. 

But, it remains unclear whether Iran and the Lebanon-based Islamist group  will comply with the ceasefire as they were not involved in the agreement, according to Haaretz. 

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