Amid violence, US, Russia reach provisional deal on Syria truce

(From AP)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had reached a provisional agreement on terms of a cessation of hostilities in Syria and the sides were closer to a ceasefire than ever before. But he indicated there were still issues to be resolved and he did not expect any immediate change on the ground.

The scene where two blasts exploded in Zahraa, in Homs province, Syria, Sunday

The scene of twin blasts in Zahraa in Homs province that killed 57 people Sunday

Violence continued to rage in Syria on Sunday. Multiple bomb blasts in a southern district of Damascus killed at least 62 people, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, while twin car bombs killed at least 57 people in Homs, the monitoring group said.

“We have reached a provisional agreement in principle on the terms of a cessation of hostilities that could begin in the coming days,” Kerry told a news conference in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

“The modalities for a cessation of hostilities are now being completed. In fact, we are closer to a ceasefire today than we have been,” said Kerry, who was also to meet King Abdullah.

The Russian Foreign Ministry seemed to stop short of Kerry’s announcement. The ministry said Lavrov and Kerry spoke on the phone Sunday for a second day in a row and discussed “the modality and conditions” for a cease-fire in Syria that would exclude groups that the U.N. Security Council considers terrorist organizations.

 Kerry reiterated the long-time U.S. position that any political solution to the conflict will not work if Syrian President Bashar Assad remains at the helm of the nation. “Make no mistake. The answer to the Syrian civil war will not be found in any military alliance with Assad,” Kerry said. “Let me make that clear.”

He said Russia now has to talk with the Syrian government and Iran, which backs Assad, and the U.S. has to talk with the opposition and members of the International Syria Support Group. He said he knows that not every party will automatically agree to the agreement reached for a ceasefire.

“There is a stark choice for everybody here,” Kerry said.



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