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Syria government and opposition agree to US-Russia ceasefire, open door to humanitarian aid

Flickr: Christiaan Triebert

Two of the major antagonists in the Syria conflict say they accept the terms of a US-Russia brokered ceasefire deal. The main opposition group, the High Negotiation Commitee, said the “acceptance of the truce is conditional” on the implementation of a UN Security Council resolution that requires the lifting of all sieges and strikes on civilian populations to enable humanitarian aid to reach those in need.

Notably, the deal does not include the two man Jihadist organizations involved in the conflict: ISIS and Al Nusra. This means that the estimated 200,000 under siege by the Islamic State in the government controlled eastern city of Deir al-Zour will not be helped by this political breakthrough.

The deal could still open up access to humanitarian aid for a large portion of the estimated 13.5 million Syrians in need of aid.

The UN estimates 176,500 people are under siege by government forces in eastern Ghouta a rebel stronghold outside of Damascas. An additional 50,000 are under siege in areas including Madaya and Darayya.

The plight of trapped civilians in Syria has become a recent rallying point for international groups trying to broker a deal in the long running civil war. The multiple combatants ranging from government forces to a fractured “opposition” to rival jihadist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Nusra to regional powers like Hezbollah have made ending the fighting on the ground nearly impossible. Complicating this is the global political situation, with everyone from Turkey to Iran to the US to Russia to European powers having varying degrees of influence with certain groups involved in the fighting.

The acceptance of the US-Russia brokered truce is a significant step forward in a peace process that has been reinvigorated in 2016, but still has a long way to go.

For now, it is worth celebrating the political achievement. The next steps in getting the government and opposition to stop fighting and allow humanitarian aid will not be easy. Even the UN acknowledges that enforcing this plan will be challenging. This is an understatement, but one that can be helped with the voices of global citizens pressuring world powers for a solution to the fighting and death.