US calls Syria ceasefire deal a ‘positive development’

Washington: The United States today cautiously welcomed a nationwide ceasefire deal in Syria brokered by Russia and Turkey as a “positive development,” saying it hoped it would lead to fresh talks on the war-wracked country’s political future.

US Secretary of State John Kerry invested significant time and energy in trying to bring an end to the civil war in Syria through diplomatic means. But more than five years on, his efforts were in vain as several truce efforts collapsed.

And with just three weeks to go before he leaves office, Washington was not part of the talks that led to the agreement announced earlier today by Syria’s army and Moscow. The ceasefire is due to take effect at midnight.

“News of a ceasefire in the Syrian civil war is a positive development,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

“We hope it will be implemented fully and respected by all parties. Any effort that stops the violence, saves lives, and creates the conditions for renewed and productive political negotiations would be welcome.”

Toner said Washington “fully” supports a call by the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, for renewed negotiations in Geneva on Syria’s political future. The United States has long said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go.

“The international community hopes this ceasefire will hold so a Syrian-led transition toward a more representative, united, and peaceful government can begin,” Toner said.

“An inclusive Syrian-led political process between the Syrian regime and the opposition is critical for establishing a durable settlement to this conflict.”

Moscow, which backs Syria’s regime, and rebel supporter Ankara are pushing for peace talks to start soon in the Kazakh capital Astana.

While de Mistura offered support for those talks, which would take place outside the UN umbrella, he also said he wants negotiations mediated by his office to continue early next year.