Syrian government and rebels agree to nationwide ceasefire

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A general view of the damage in the Umayyad Mosque in Old Aleppo on Dec. 15, 2013. Photo by Molhem Barakat/Reuters

A general view of the damage in the Umayyad Mosque in Old Aleppo on Dec. 15, 2013. Photo by Molhem Barakat/Reuters

The Syrian regime reached a ceasefire agreement with rebel forces on Thursday. The deal is to proceed negotiations between both sides on a unspecified date.

The first hints of a pending deal came around midday, when Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview that his officials were holding discussions with Russian counterparts to negotiate. Partial details leaked throughout the day, but the final terms call on the two nations to serve as insurance. Turkey would guarantee cooperation by the rebels, while Russia would monitor the compliance of government forces under Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The conditions apply to all rebel-held areas, The Guardian reported, including areas held by al-Qaida’s branch in Syria. Peace negotiators had omitted this latter territory from previous deals — all of which failed.

As the day progressed, President Vladimir Putin announced a scale-down of Russia’s military presence in Syria. Negotiations between the rebels and Syrian government officials are slated to occur within a month of when the ceasefire goes into effect at midnight Thursday.

Officials from Russia, Turkey, Egypt and Iran will likely attend the first round of meetings. Cavusoglu has called for Iran-backed Hezbollah fighters to leave Syria. Other third parties, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and incoming U.S. president Donald Trump — may receive invitations for subsequent negotiations.

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