Turkey and Russia band together over Syria cease-fire deal

World Today

Turkey and Russia are discussing the contours of a broader Syrian cease-fire after brokering the deal that evacuated rebel-held eastern Aleppo earlier month, Syrian opposition factions said Wednesday.

Several rebel groups say they are withholding their approval of any agreement until they receive more details.

An official with one of the factions told The Associated Press that Russian and Turkish officials were debating a cease-fire proposal that would encompass the whole of Syria. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were ongoing.

Iran, Russia and Turkey met in Moscow last week for talks on Syria that included no Syrians.

Rebels have opposed previous proposals that would allow the government to continue its offensives around the outskirts of the capital, Damascus.

Turkey’s Anadolu Agency said Wednesday morning that Ankara and Moscow had reached an agreement, and Turkish media reports quoted Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as saying that a lasting cease-fire and political solution in Syria are “close.” But no details were announced, and there was no confirmation from state officials.

The Syrian opposition official said factions were holding vigorous discussions over the possibilities. Another official with a different group said the proposal has not been formally presented to the opposition.

“It is difficult to accept or refuse the matter before we look at the details, of course,” said the official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to prejudge intra-opposition talks.

Previous attempts at enforcing a nationwide cease-fire in Syria have failed, but the recent warming of ties between Russia and Turkey, who provide crucial support to opposing sides of the civil war, may prove to be a game changer.

Turkey’s Anadolu Agency said peace talks in Kazakhstan would proceed under Russia and Turkey’s leadership if the cease-fire holds, with the two acting as “guarantors” of any deal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman confirmed Russia and Turkey were in “constant contact” to prepare for planned Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan, but did not comment about the possibility of a cease-fire.

A top Russian diplomat meanwhile said a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would impose sanctions on Syria for chemical weapons use is unacceptable to Moscow, which has veto power on the council.

A resolution drafted by Britain and France, which was obtained by The Associated Press, would impose sanctions on an array of Syrian individuals, organizations and companies allegedly involved in chemical weapons attacks. It would also ban sales of helicopters to Syria.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by the state news agency Tass on Wednesday as saying the resolution “is categorically unacceptable to us. We warn them against attempts to fan tensions in the U.N. Security Council.”

This story is by The Associated Press.