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Syria Ceasefire Holding, Despite Saudi Objections

March 1, 2016 (EIRNS)—The U.S.-Russian truce in Syria is holding through its fourth day, despite Saudi-inspired complaints and Turkish shelling across the border.

"The ceasefire regime between government troops and opposition forces in Syria is being respected in general," Lt. Gen. Sergei Kuralenko, the chief of the truce coordination center, told reporters during a press tour at the Russian airbase in Latakia, yesterday. "Officers at the Russian center on Syrian reconciliation registered only seven ceasefire violations in the past 24 hours," Kuralenko stressed.

Both US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon spoke similarly yesterday. During his press conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Kerry indicated that the US was looking into reports of ceasefire violations, but warned against using them to say that the truce was failing. Kerry said that while there were reports of violations, the vast majority in Syria had seen a decrease in violence. "So we call on all the parties not to be looking for a way to get out from under the responsibility of the cessation of hostilities, but rather to help the process to hold itself accountable," Kerry added.

"By and large the cessation of hostilities is holding, even though we have experienced some incidents," Ban Ki Moon told reporters in Geneva after meeting with his special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

"But the task force and all other members of this ISSG [International Syria Support Group] are now trying to make sure that this does not spread any further and this cessation of hostilities can continue,"

he said. Even the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was largely holding, with casualties greatly reduced from the time before the agreement took effect.

While just about everybody else is finding that the truce is holding, despite occasional violence, the Saudi-sponsored High Negotiations Committee is claiming that it’s not. Asaad al-Zoubi, head of the HNC delegation to the peace talks, said the truce had collapsed before it started, reports Today’s Zaman.

"We are not facing a violation of the truce ... we are facing a complete nullification," he said, and "we have alternatives to protect our people" if the international community cannot. HNC spokesman Salim al-Muslat said, the truce was a step in the right direction, but a mechanism was needed to stop violations—by the HNC’s definitions, violations come from Russia and the Syrian government—and encourage negotiations.

"There has to be a power that really stops what Russia and what the regime is doing," Muslat said in a television interview with Reuters in Riyadh. "Today there [were] about 10 Russian air strikes, about 16 air strikes done by the regime."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov refuted such claims. "We investigate such reports. I have to tell you that as of today, there is no truth to these reports," Ryabkov told reporters.

"We believe that instead of using unsuitable means to try and blame Russia for the fragility of the current ceasefire, the US-led anti-IS coalition should urge some of its subordinates to be more careful at this time,"

he added.

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