Syria's Assad assures Putin of commitment to proposed truce

BEIRUT - The Syrian president on Wednesday assured Russia's Vladimir Putin of Damascus' commitment to a Russia-U.S. proposed truce, even as a spokesman for a Saudi-backed alliance of Syrian opposition and rebel factions expressed "major concerns" about the ceasefire, due to begin later this week.

See Full Article

Salem Al Meslet, spokesman for the alliance known as the High Negotiations Committee, said his group is worried that Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces would continue to strike at mainstream rebels under the pretext of hitting "terrorist groups" during the truce.

The agreement, engineered by the U.S. and Russia, is set to take effect at midnight Friday local time. It does not cover the Islamic State group, Syria's al-Qaida branch known as the Nusra Front, or any other militia designated as a terrorist group by the UN Security Council.

On Wednesday, Assad and Putin discussed the truce agreement in a telephone call, according to the Syrian state-run news agency and a Russian official. SANA said Putin called Assad, adding that the two leaders stressed the importance of continuing to fight the Islamic State, the Nusra Front "and other terrorist organizations."

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed the phone call, saying there were differences in opinion between Moscow and Damascus but that Russia is one of the few countries still in contact with "the legitimate Syrian leader." He did not elaborate.

Speaking in a conference call with journalists, he said Moscow was doing its part and is expecting the United States to also do its part to make sure the groups they support adhere to the cease-fire.

"The main goal is to stop the bloodletting in Syria," he said.

Asked whether Moscow had a Plan B in case the truce did not hold, he replied: "We are concentrating on Plan A right now ... it's too early to speak of other plans."

The truce agreement remains shaky at best and major questions over enforcement are still unresolved.

Also, it is not clear exactly where along Syria's complicated front lines the fighting would stop and for how long - or where counterterrorism operations could continue. Also unresolved are how breaches in the truce would be dealt with.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told American lawmakers on Tuesday that he would not vouch for the success of the cease-fire agreement but that it is the best pathway for ending five years of violence in Syria that has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced another 11 million from their homes.

Al Meslet, the opposition spokesman, said the HNC is holding open meetings in the Saudi capital of Riyadh and is seeking guarantees and clarifications from the United States about the mechanism for the implementation of the agreement.

Speaking in a phone interview with The Associated Press, he said however that the opposition wants to stop the bloodshed and would abide by the truce.

"The Americans are taking note of our concerns and we are waiting for their replies," Al Meslet said.

-----

Associated Press writers Lynn Berry and Katherine Jacobsen in Moscow and Albert Aji in Damascus contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • China claims 8% birthrate increase in 1st year since ending one-child policy

    World News CBC News
    The number of births in China has risen nearly eight per cent in the year after the government loosened its unpopular one-child policy. China's National Health and Family Planning Commission said this week that 17.86 million children were born last year, an increase of 1.31 million from 2015. Source
  • 3 dogs give avalanche rescuers hope but 20 people missing

    World News Toronto Sun
    FARINDOLA, Italy — Rescue crews say they have found three puppies alive in the rubble of an Italian mountain hotel slammed by an avalanche. Firefighter spokesman Fabio German said the discovery signals that there are still chances of finding some of the 23 people still buried under the snow alive. Source
  • Alaska strip club owner gets probation in waste dumping case

    World News Toronto Sun
    ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska man convicted of illegally dumping human waste into a harbour from a floating strip club he was operating has been spared serving prison time. Darren Byler instead was sentenced in Anchorage Monday to five years of probation and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, in increments of no less than $2,000 a year, beginning this year. Source
  • Bush ready to leave intensive care; wife Barbara goes home

    World News Toronto Sun
    HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush was discharged from a hospital Monday while former President George H.W. Bush is expected to be moved from the hospital’s intensive care unit soon. The 92-year-old former president was struggling to breathe when he was admitted to the Houston Methodist Hospital Jan. Source
  • RCMP issues warning about scammers

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The same fraudsters are back at it a few months after a crackdown on bogus call centres in India where hundreds of employees bilked Canadians out of millions through a Canada Revenue Agency scam. The RCMP warns the con-artists are now piggy-backing on their previous scam, pretending once again to be CRA agents and promising to get victimized Canadians their lost cash back — for a fee of course. Source
  • Alberta Liberal party calls for public inquiry into drug deaths in provincial jails

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON - The Alberta Liberals want the government to call a public inquiry into all drug-related deaths of inmates in provincial jails since 2012. Liberal Leader David Swann said there has been a spike in the number of drug-related police investigations at the Edmonton Remand Centre over the past year. Source
  • Trump wrongly blames fraud for loss of popular vote

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump asserted in a private meeting with congressional leaders Monday night that he would have won the popular vote in the 2016 election if 3 million to 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally hadn't voted. Source
  • 'She gambled away Ryan's life': Judges rules Tamara Lovett guilty of criminal negligence causing death [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Calgary mom Tamara Lovett gambled with her seven-year-old son's life by not getting him proper medical care and lost, a judge ruled Monday in finding her guilty of criminal negligence causing death. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Kristine Eidsvik said Lovett's decision to continue to treat her gravely ill son, Ryan, with "natural" remedies instead of getting him to a doctor crossed the line of criminal behaviour. Source
  • Countries push to save TPP deal after U.S. exits

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY -- Several countries say they hope to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership after President Donald Trump's decision on a U.S. withdrawal from the trade pact cast its future in jeopardy. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged Trump's move was a blow to the multinational agreement. Source
  • Toronto theatre company developing play based on Russell Williams interrogation

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - A Toronto-based theatre company is developing a play based on the intense police interrogation in which convicted sex killer Russell Williams confessed his crimes. The One Little Goat Theatre Company plans to premiere "Smyth/Williams" in March, with an all-female cast that will alternate the roles of the interrogating officer and Williams through the performance. Source