Damascus—Guns fell silent across Syria on Saturday after a landmark UN-backed ceasefire came into effect, as a special task force led by rivals Moscow and Washington prepared to begin monitoring the fledgling truce.
But Washington immediately expressed skepticism as to whether the ceasefire would last, but said it offered the “best chance to reduce the violence.”
Speaking in Washington on Thursday, President Barack Obama put the onus firmly on the regime and Russia, saying the “world will be watching” whether they keep to the truce.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington had received assurances from Moscow that it would not bomb the “moderate opposition” after the truce.
“I don’t know how to put it any better than saying: ‘It’s put up or shut up time,” he told reporters.
Iran, another key Assad ally, has said it is confident the regime will abide by the agreement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in televised remarks said that Moscow would continue targeting “terrorist groups.”
“The decisive fight against them will, without doubt, be continued,” he said in televised remarks. “There is no other way.”
Moscow backs Assad and Washington supports the opposition, but both have made a concerted push for the ceasefire to be respected.
On the stroke of midnight, firing stopped in suburbs around the capital and the devastated northern city of Aleppo, AFP correspondents said, after a day of intense Russian air strikes on rebel bastions across the country.
Monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was quiet in the north of Latakia province and in the central provinces of Homs and Hama.
The nationwide cessation of hostilities is the first pause in five years of a civil war that has claimed more than 270,000 lives.
United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura said peace talks would resume on March 7 if the agreement holds and more aid is delivered—a key sticking point in negotiations for a truce.
Fighting appears to have “calmed down,” he told reporters shortly after midnight, adding that a special task force would meet in Geneva on Saturday to monitor the ceasefire.
Russian forces on Saturday said that its warplanes would not fly any sorties over Syria on Saturday in support of a ceasefire and to rule out any possible “bombing mistakes.”
“On February 27, sorties of the Russian aviation in Syria including long-range aviation, are not (being) carried out”, Sergei Rudskoi, a senior representative of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, told reporters.
He said it was being done to rule out “any possible bombing mistakes” and in accordance with a UN Security Council resolution.
Moscow and Washington, co-chairs of the task force which back opposing sides in Syria, have set up rival offices to monitor the truce along with a UN operation centre and would be first to deal with any infractions.
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