UN envoy hails Putin-Trump Syria deal as 'step in the right direction'

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UN Deputy Special Envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy said that the deal could help prop up the political process aimed at ending six-year war

Previous ceasefires have failed to hold for long and it was not clear how much the actual combatants in the area are committed to this latest effort (AFP)
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Monday 10 July 2017 10:46 UTC
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A ceasefire deal agreed for southwestern Syria is a positive development that could help prop up the political process aimed at ending the country's six-year war, the UN deputy special envoy for Syria said on Saturday.

"This is a step in the right direction," Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy told reporters in Damascus.

The United States, Russia and Jordan reached a ceasefire and "de-escalation agreement" for southwestern Syria set to take effect on Sunday. The announcement came after a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit of major economies.

Previous ceasefires have failed to hold for long and it was not clear how much the actual combatants in the area - Syrian government forces and the main rebel groups in the southwest - are committed to this latest effort.

"All of this leads to supporting the political process," Ramzy said after meeting with government officials about UN-based peace talks that open in Geneva next week.

"This development helps create the appropriate environment for the talks," he added, expressing hope that agreements would be reached for other parts of Syria as well.

Among other issues, the latest round of UN peace talks, due to start on Monday, will include "continuing technical negotiations about the constitutional and legal matters related to the political process," Ramzy said.

The announcement of the ceasefire is a sign that US and Russia are prepared to work together on "de-escalating" the Syria conflict after months of tension between the two powers who both sit on the UN Security council.

Both sides continue to back opposite sides in the conflict. America and her allies blame the Syrian government for a deadly chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead in April, while the Russians deny the claims.

The Americans responded to the attack by hitting the Shayrat airbase - where it believes the jet that delivered the chemical took off from - with a barrage of cruise missiles, further drawing the ire of Russia.

The Syria deal appeared to be the main point of agreement at the first meeting between Trump and Putin, who also discussed North Korea's nuclear ambitions and Moscow's alleged interference in the US 2016 presidential election.

"We had a very lengthy conversation," Putin said after the meeting with Trump, which lasted more than two hours.

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was not able to match Ramzy’s confidence in the deal and said that though he welcomed the ceasefire he wanted to see results on the ground.

"The recent history of the Syrian civil war is littered with ceasefires, and it would be nice, one day, to have a ceasefire," Fallon said from Washington.

"None of these have turned out to be ceasefires, they have been broken persistently, broken by the regime and indeed broken by Russian activity itself."