U.S., Russia Reach Deal on Cease-Fire in Southwest Syria

from The Wall Street Journal,

Plan emerges as Trump and Putin meet in Germany, set to begin Sunday.

The U.S. and Russia agreed Friday on a cease-fire in a violent corner of Syria in a limited deal that officials said was designed to show the two powers are able to find ways to cooperate. The agreement to secure a halt to fighting in southwest Syria came as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump met for the first time in Germany and as Washington seeks to work with Moscow on the long-running Syria conflict. If the deal is successful, it would be the first time Moscow and Washington succeeded in implementing a cease-fire together in Syria. A U.S.-Russian agreement last year on a nationwide cease-fire and closer military cooperation collapsed after Moscow-backed Syrian forces stepped up an offensive on Aleppo. The U.S. backs rebel groups opposing Syria’s government and Russia backs Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, with Iran and Iranian-backed militias as allies. Despite differing goals and approaches, the U.S. and Russia had been meeting secretly in recent months to discuss setting up what officials call a de-escalation zone in southwest Syria, an area where Syrian government forces and rebels would be separated. Officials hope that the establishment of the first such zone will help reduce violence and that the U.S. and Russia can work to set up other zones around the country. Officials have provided few details on how the zone will be enforced or the parameters of the agreement. “This is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Hamburg after participating in the meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, who are attending the Group of 20 leading nations summit. “As a result of that, we had a very lengthy discussion regarding other areas in Syria that we can continue to work together on.”

The agreement is set to take effect on Sunday at noon Syria time. A senior State Department official involved in the negotiations said that the U.S., Jordan and Russia last week agreed on a “line of contact” where regime and opposition forces are operating. The cease-fire deal was reached Friday in Amman, Jordan, the official said.

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