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U.S.-Russian Brokered Ceasefire in Southern Syria Begins, Appears To Be Holding

July 9, 2017 (EIRNS)—The U.S.-Russian brokered ceasefire in southern Syria officially began at noon local time, today (09:00 GMT/UTC). In a statement issued late yesterday, H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, said that such de-escalation zones, such as the one agreed on in southern Syria by the U.S. and Russia, "are a priority for the United States, and we’re encouraged by the progress made to reach this agreement." He reported that Trump had discussed the agreement with "many world leaders" before leaving Hamburg, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"The United States remains committed to defeating ISIS, helping to end the conflict in Syria, reducing suffering and enabling people to return to their homes. This agreement is an important step toward these common goals."

By all news accounts, the ceasefire was holding as evening fell in the three provinces of Quneitra, Daraa, and Suwayda where it took effect. Officials of armed groups in Quneitra and Daraa reported calm and even the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that "calm was prevailing" with no air strikes or clashes in the southwest since the truce began, reported Reuters. A source in Damascus told Sputnik that "no evident ceasefire violations in southwestern Syria have been registered." Though the Syrian government has issued no statements on the ceasefire agreement, it had already implemented a ceasefire of its own in the southern provinces before the July 4-5 meeting in Astana on the implementation of de-escalation zones agreed on by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

During his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before leaving Hamburg yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin credited him with a major role in helping to improve the situation in Syria. According to the Kremlin transcript, Putin told Erdogan that

"it is largely owing to your stand that the situation in Syria has changed significantly for the better. The terrorist groups have suffered a major blow, and the settlement has seen major progress."

Erdogan replied that "I am confident that our joint efforts with Russia with regard to the developments that have occurred are a clear example for the region’s nations and for the entire global community." Expectations are "naturally running high," especially on Syria he added, later.