Russia halts Syria bombing sorties in line with ceasefire


 

MOSCOW: Russia’a air force halted bombings in Syria on Saturday in accordance with a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia and the United States, the General Staff of the Armed Forces said.

Russian warplanes suspended all sorties and fighting stopped in 34 Syrian settlements, military officials said.

“Russia’s air force fully halted bombing in the green zone,” a senior representative of the General Staff, Sergei Rudskoi, said, referring to the areas and armed groups that expressed interest in observing the ceasefire deal.

He added that “on February 27, sorties of the Russian aviation in Syria including long-range aviation, are not (being) carried out”. He told reporters this was being done to rule out “any possible bombing mistakes” and in accordance with a UN Security Council resolution.

A ceasefire agreement brokered by Moscow and Washington called for the cessation of hostilities from 2200 GMT Friday between Russian-backed Bashar al-Assad’s forces and opposition groups.

The deal does not however include the Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front militants. Rudskoi said 17 armed groups — those who fight alongside regime forces or independently — contacted Russia’s ceasefire coordination centre at the Hmeimim airbase and pledged to honour the ceasefire deal.

He also said that within the framework of the ceasefire deal the Russian and US militaries exchanged maps showing battles for control of Syria. Rudskoi said more than 6,000 fighters had joined the truce deal, saying they handed their lists to the US counterparts.

He added that the Americans also received a list of 74 settlements and areas which should not be bombed. “During consultations we received a similar map prepared by the American side,” Rudskoi said. “We’ve made the first step on the path to halting fighting on Syrian soil,” he added.

“We are honouring an obligation to observe the ceasefire in full. However it does not mean that ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra militants can breathe a sigh of relief,” he said, referring to the Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front by other names. Speaking by video link from the Hmeimim airbase, Sergei Kuralenko, head of Russia’s coordination centre in Syria, said fighting stopped in 34 Syrian settlements.

AFP

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