On Friday, as President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the U.S. State Department confirmed the two sides had reached a ceasefire agreement in Syria. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called it, “the first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria.”
“We spent a very, very lengthy period on Syria. With a great amount of detail on the agreement, we concluded today but also where we go,” Tillerson said of the meeting between Trump and Putin.
CBS News and the Associated Press report that Jordan and Israel, which border on southern Syria, are also part of the plan. Jordanian Minister of Media Affairs Mohammed Momani announced on Friday that the ceasefire would go into effect at noon local time on Sunday, July 9.
It remains to be seen whether the Syrian military, rebel forces, and assorted terrorist gangs will honor the agreement. The track record of previous ceasefires has not been encouraging. One hopeful sign noted by CBS/AP is that the Syrian government has already announced a four-day unilateral suspension of combat operations, which will end just before the U.S.-Russia deal goes into effect.
The new ceasefire announcement is considered separate from the “de-escalation” plans Russia has brokered with Iran and Turkey through peace talks in Kazakhstan, which pointedly excluded the United States. The latest round of talks in Kazakhstan this week fell short of producing a final ceasefire plan because a few of the parties actually shooting at each other in Syria seemed willing to sign on. A Russian-Turkish initiative to deploy troops from Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan to monitor Syrian de-escalation zones also appears to have fizzled.
It marks a positive shift in relations between America and Russia after such incidents as the U.S. cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase to retaliate for a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime and Russia threatening to target warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition if they entered certain regions of Syria’s airspace.
This week, Secretary Tillerson said President Trump was interested in discussing no-fly zones and the delivery of humanitarian aid with Putin, along with a monitored ceasefire. Tillerson also cautioned the Syrian regime and its allies from rushing in to occupy areas where the U.S. and its coalition partners have routed ISIS.
Notably, Tillerson dropped dictator Bashar Assad squarely in Russia’s lap, describing Russia as “guarantor of the Assad regime” and saying it “has a responsibility to ensure that the needs of the Syrian people are met.”
He returned to that point after Trump’s meeting with Putin on Friday, claiming rather optimistically that American and Russia have similar objectives in Syria other than the fate of Assad’s regime. He insisted that the United States continues to “see no long-term role for Assad” in Syria, and insisting the endgame for that tormented country will involve a “transition from the Assad family.”