PHOTO: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday (Alexander Scherbak/TASS)
UPDATE 2230 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have announced an agreement for temporary ceasefires.
The two men announced that the arrangement for the “humanitarian pause” for delivery of aid, particularly in and near Aleppo, will start on Monday.
The deal announces includes cooperation over designated “strike” and “no-strike” areas. No details have been provided yet of the locations.
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura appeared with Kerry and Lavrov to endorse the agreement, while the Russian Foreign Minister said Russia has informed the Assad regime about the arrangements and “they are ready to fulfill them”.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: The US and Russia will try again on Friday to close a deal on temporary ceasefires in Syria.
US Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Geneva on Friday for another round of discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with American officials warning that the talks could not be indefinite.
“Senior State Department officials” briefing reporters on Kerry’s flight talked down the prospect of a final breakthrough, but said “steady progress” had been made in recent weeks.
“We’ve been taking issues off the table because we’ve reached an understanding on them and continue to have some issues that remain outstanding and that we have been unable to close,” one official said. “We can’t guarantee at this point that we are on the cusp of finishing.”
US officials had said last week that the deal was close to completion, but Russia pulled back from a confirmed agreement. Instead, Moscow concentrated on intense airstrikes that helped the Syrian military — along with Iranian units, Hezbollah, and Iranian-led foreign militia — recapture territory near Aleppo and renew the siege on Syria’s largest city.
Some analysts also speculated that Iran, which has insisted on the retention of President Assad in power, had held Russia back from a final deal.
Under the proposals, “humanitarian pauses” would allow aid into areas like Aleppo. However, opposition groups have warned that — if Russia and pro-Assad forces control the only route into the city — pro-regime districts will be assured of supplies while pro-opposition areas will remain hostage to a siege.
A US official insisted on Thursday that the agreement would have to end the siege, imposed in early July by Russia and the Assad regime.
The US and Russia are also reportedly concluding arrangements for intelligence sharing on strikes against the Islamic State and the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra.
On Thursday night, an airstrike killed the leading JFS commander near Aleppo and seriously wounded others as they met in a village in Aleppo Province. It is unclear whether the attack was by an American or Russian warplane.
SW Aleppo Front: Pro-Assad Forces Take Control of Ramouseh
The Syrian military and foreign allies have taken control of the town Ramouseh to tighten their siege of Syria’s largest city Aleppo.
The pro-Assad forces completed the takeover of Ramouseh, southwest of Aleppo, on Thursday as the rebel defenders pulled back.
On Sunday, the forces re-imposed the siege with the capture of a large artillery base. The advance was enabled by intense Russian airstrikes and the fighters of Hezbollah and Iranian-led foreign militias.
Rebels had broken the siege with an offensive from late July, but they now only hold the Hikmah school and the 1070 housing complex from that advance.