Syrians crave an end to war, the lifting of sieges, the arrival of aid and a new political start. But the latest ceasefire agreement may collapse unless all parties can trust what it says
A year ago, Vladimir Putin stood before the UN general assembly and announced that Russia was launching a military intervention in Syria, and wanted to be part of an international coalition against Isis. Both statements were met with heavy scepticism, with some anticipating that Russia would soon find itself in a Middle East quagmire. Yet on Friday, a year on, Russia and the US announced that they had reached an agreement aimed at paving the way towards a ceasefire in Syria, with a staged process due to start on Monday.
No one can fail to welcome a ceasefire, if it happens. Syria’s five-year civil war has caused an estimated half a million deaths and has displaced more than half of the country’s population of 22 million. Anything that can reduce the level of violence has to be applauded. The US-Russia plan is essentially a bargain. Syrian government forces will stop bombing targets and areas that the US and Russia have agreed to spare, while humanitarian aid will be given safe passage, including to Aleppo. The US will acknowledge Russia as a partner in the fight against Isis. Anti-Assad rebel forces will be required to disentangle themselves from forces formerly associated with al-Qaida.