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Syria's warring factions agree to US-Russia truce deal

The Syrian opposition is concerned that civilians may continue to be targeted despite truce [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 February, 2016

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The Syrian regime has accepted the US-Russia ceasefire deal, set to start over the weekend, as the Syrian opposition voices concern over civilians getting caught in attacks targeting extremists.
Terms of the United States-Russia led ceasefire deal were accepted by the Syrian government on Tuesday. 

The Syrian regime will halt armed operations but will "continue counter terrorism efforts" against the Islamic State [IS] group and al-Qaeda groups, a foreign ministry statement said.

"To guarantee that the cessation of hostilities will successfully start on the set date of February 27, the Syrian government is ready to continue coordinating with Russia to determine the areas and armed group that will fall under this ceasefire," the statement continued.

But Syrian opposition factions voiced concerns over the exclusion of al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front from the truce, calling it "problematic".

"For us, al-Nusra is a problematic point, because it is not only present in Idlib, but also in Aleppo, in Damascus and in the south," head of the Syrian National Coalition Khaled Khoja said on Monday.

"The critical issue here is that civilians or the Free Syrian Army could be targeted under the pretext of targeting al-Nusra," Khoja added.

Announced on Monday by Moscow and Washington, a truce agreement has been set for an initial period of two weeks.

"The length of the proposed truce is two weeks, but it could be extended indefinitely if the parties commit to it," Khoja said.

Read also: Syria ceasefire announcement met with scepticism

The ceasefire agreement was described as a "real step towards ending the bloodshed" in Syria by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

More than 260,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011, and millions have been forced to flee their homes.

Russia began conducting its air war in Syria on September 30 in support of embattled ally President Bashar al-Assad.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Moscow's strikes on Syria have killed over 3,000 people so far. The toll includes more than 1,000 civilians, including hundreds of children.

"I am convinced that the joint actions agreed with the American side are able to radically transform the crisis situation in Syria," Putin said on Monday.

Russian and US negotiators underwent a number of closed consultations over the deal and achieved "an important, definite result," Putin added.

The ceasefire deal aims to pave the way for a resumption of UN-led Geneva peace talks which collapsed earlier this month.

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