US, Russia: Syria ceasefire to be extended for new 48 hours

US, Russia: Syria ceasefire extended for new 48 hours
Boys walk near a damaged building on the first day of Eid al-Adha celebrations in the rebel held Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

The United States and Russia have said that a ceasefire in Syria is largely holding and it should be extended by 48 hours, as minor breaches were reported by UN and monitoring groups.

Under the ceasefire agreement, made by US and Russia who back opposing sides in the five-year-old war, a nationwide truce from sundown on Monday was promised,as well as improved access for humanitarian aid and joint military targeting of hardline Islamist groups.

“There was agreement as a whole, despite sporadic reports of violence, the arrangement is holding and violence is significantly lower,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

“As part of the conversation they agreed to extend the cessation for another 48 hours.”

Toner said US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov had spoken by telephone earlier in the day and agreed it was worth extending the truce.

“This recommitment will initially be for 48 hours, and, provided it holds, the US and Russia will discuss extensions, with the aim of achieving an indefinite extension to lower the violence,” Toner said.

He added that Russia needed to use its influence over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to ensure that humanitarian aid was delivered to besieged communities under the agreement.

“We haven’t seen the humanitarian access yet so we’re still continuing to assess this, talking to the Russians,” Toner he said. “We’re pressuring them to pressure the Assad regime.”

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict through contacts on the ground, said no deaths from fighting had been reported in the first 48 hours of the truce.

“No one has died from gunfire over the past 15 hours,” he said on Tuesday at 12pm Damascus local time (09:00 GMT). “This is so far the most successful ceasefire to take place in the country.”

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.