A national ceasefire in Syria, negotiated by Russia and Turkey, was in force at the beginning of Friday, a potentially major breakthrough in the conflict of nearly six years, despite reports of clashes Isolated.
The agreement, which does not include the “terrorists” designated as the Islamic state group, was announced a few hours earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin and confirmed by the Syrian army and the opposition.
While the truce was standing in most of the country at the beginning of Friday, fighting erupted near a Christian town in central Hama province with Islamist factions attacking regime forces, according to a monitoring group.
“There have been fierce clashes between the two sides, pushing regime forces to withdraw from a hill near Maharda,” said Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Human Rights Observatory based in Great- Britain.
“Small rebel groups and armed loyalists are trying to destroy the truce because it ends their presence,” he said.
Elsewhere, the ceasefire would have been maintained.
According to an AFP correspondent in eastern Ghouta, bombing and air strikes stopped for more than an hour in the region after intensive bombing and raids on Thursday.
AFP correspondents in Damascus and Idlib said there had been no sound of bombing, air strikes or clashes since midnight.
The agreement, hailed by the Syrian government as a “real opportunity” to find a political solution to the war, comes a week after the regime took over the second city of Aleppo in a major coup to rebel forces.
The agreement was negotiated by Russia and Turkey, which return opposing parties in the conflict, but does not concern Washington, which has negotiated earlier cease-fires with Moscow.
Putin said Damascus and the “main forces of the armed opposition” had encrusted a truce and a document expressing a willingness to initiate peace talks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the deal “a historic possibility” to end the Syrian conflict that killed more than 310,000 people and forced millions of people to leave their homes.
Putin said he would also reduce the military contingent of Moscow in Syria, which launched a bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad since last year.
The strong man of the Kremlin, however, said that Russia will continue to fight against “terrorism” in Syria and to maintain its support for the regime. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said seven opposition groups, including powerful Ahrar al-Sham, had signed the agreement, and those who did not join would be considered terrorists.
Erdogan said Turkey would continue its four-month incursion into Syria against Islamic state group jihadists and Kurdish militias.
The Syrian army said the agreement did not include the SI and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front, renamed the Fateh al-Sham Front.
This could cause complications in areas like Idlib in northwestern Syria where Fateh al-Sham is allied with rebel groups that have signed the agreement.
The Syrian political opposition and the rebels confirmed their support for the truce, saying it applied to all parts of the country.
“The agreement is for all Syria and contains no exceptions or prerequisites,” said Osama Abu Zeid, a legal adviser to the rebel groups who are fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.
The agreement comes after Turkey and Russia negotiated an agreement to allow the evacuation of tens of thousands of civilians and rebel fighters from Aleppo.
Moscow and Ankara are currently pushing for peace talks between Damascus and rebels to begin soon in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana.
“Now we must do everything to make these agreements come into force, so they work, so that the negotiating teams that have been or are trained quickly and as soon as possible arrive in Astana,” Putin said.
UN peacekeeper Staffan de Mistura said he hoped the agreement would “pave the way for fruitful negotiations” in Kazakhstan, but also reiterated his wish that the negotiations mediated by his Office will continue at the beginning of next year.
Russia and Turkey both said that the peace talks they would supervise were intended to complement the UN-backed peace efforts rather than replace them entirely.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia, Turkey and Iran are organizing talks and urging other key international actors to get involved.
Lavrov said that Moscow will invite Egypt and will try to attract other regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq and Jordan.
He added that Moscow will seek to involve the administration of US President-elect Donald Trump once he takes office in less than a month, but the process does not appear to involve the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama.
The United States Department of State described the ceasefire agreement as “positive development” and hoped it would lead to further negotiations on the political future of Syria.
Abu Zeid confirmed that the cartel agreement should pave the way for further talks in Astana and that the High Negotiating Committee – which has represented the opposition in previous negotiations – should participate.
Turkey has long supported the Syrian opposition and its relations with Russia worsened last year after Ankara shot down a Russian warplane.
But the two countries worked closely with Syria, and Turkey was constantly silent as Assad forces resumed Aleppo.