By Rohan Ahluwalia
After more than five years of conflict between the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and opposition rebels, fighting in one of the most war-torn nations over the past half decade has come to a halt.
In what many experts are hailing as a breakthrough, the United States and Russia came to an agreement on Saturday, Sept. 10, to put the peace process in Syria back on track, which includes a ceasefire.
Al-Jazeera reported that the deal agreed upon by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov aims to start turning the West Asian nation toward a proper political transformation.
The nationwide ceasefire began across Syria on Monday, Sept. 12, at sundown. The main belligerents in the conflict, the forces of al-Assad and the U.S.-supported opposition, are the ones targeted by this ceasefire. According to CNN, the ceasefire will be difficult to implement due to the numerous other groups involved in the Syrian conflict.
The ceasefire created a seven-day period that will allow for aid to enter the Syrian city of Aleppo, which has recently faced numerous attacks. According to CNN, this will also include forces to pull back from Castello Road, a key access route into Aleppo.
Once the ceasefire was implemented, the United States and Russia began preparations on the creation of a Joint Implementation Center, which involved information sharing, such as which areas are controlled by which groups, according to Al-Jazeera.
Additionally, Russia is expected to keep their Russian-made Syrian air force planes from attacking opposition controlled areas as part of the arrangement, according to Al-Jazeera. Meanwhile, the United States has committed to help weaken the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
The Syrian opposition has welcomed the ceasefire, but only “if it is going to be enforced,” said Bassma Kodmani, a member of the High Negotiations Committee, on Saturday, Sept. 10, according to CNN.
“When the cessation of hostilities was installed in February, the opposition — 100 groups — respected it. It was violated by the regime,” Kodmani said. “So a return to a cessation of hostilities has been our demand.”
The agreement for a ceasefire has also been highly welcomed by the United Nations and the foreign ministers from the United Kingdom, Turkey and Germany.
According to Kerry during the ceasefire announcement on Friday, Sept. 9, this latest attempt at a ceasefire relies heavily on the goodwill and trust of those involved.
“If the plan is implemented in good faith, if the stakeholders do the things that are available to them, this can be a moment where the multilateral efforts at the diplomatic table, the negotiations could take hold, and you could really provide the people of Syria with a transition,” Kerry said, according to CNN.
However, despite the ceasefire being active after a week, Russian officials on Friday, Sept. 16, said that rebel groups have increased attacks in Syria during the week, according to BBC. Russian generals have called on the United States to act on these attacks or to be responsible for the the collapse of the ceasefire.