Fighting largely halts in Syria as truce kicks in

Fighting largely halts in Syria as first major truce in country's five-year civil war comes into effect.

Fighting stopped across most areas of western Syria on Saturday after a landmark "cessation of hostilities" came into effect as part of a joint U.S.-Russian plan that warring sides in the civil war have accepted.

If the temporary truce holds, it will mark the first time world powers have been able to negotiate a pause in Syria’s five-year civil war. The fragile agreement requires the Syrian government and its enemies to cease fighting so that aid can reach civilians and peace talks can resume.

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that fighting had “calmed down” but one breach was being investigated.

"Let's pray that this works because frankly this is the best opportunity we can imagine the Syrian people has had for the last five years in order to see something better and hopefully something related to peace," de Mistura said.

He added that peace talks will resume on 7 March is the truce “largely holds” and warned that “there will be no shortage of attempts to undermine the process.”

“This will remain a complicated, painstaking process,” he told the UN Security Council via videoconference from Geneva. “However, nothing is impossible, especially at this moment.”

The security council’s truce resolution names about 30 areas in Syria in dire need of aid, including eastern and western rural Aleppo and the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, which is under siege by so-called Islamic State (IS) jihadists

The temporary truce does not apply to IS and the Nusra Front, affiliated with Al Qaeda. On Friday, Nusra urged its supporters to intensify attacks against President Bashar al-Assad and his allies.

Around 100 rebel factions have agreed to respect the truce, Syrian opposition umbrella group the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his forces will continue to target IS, Nusra Front and other extremist groups designated as legitimate targets, but the HNC warned the Syrian government and its allies not to use the "proposed text to continue the hostile operations against the opposition factions under the excuse of fighting terrorism".

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