Skip to main content

US Syria envoy urges rebels in letter to accept truce deal

Syria's government has approved deal, while main opposition group has been more cautious
US special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney (AFP/file photo)

The US special envoy to Syria on Saturday appealed to rebels to commit to a landmark ceasefire deal brokered by Washington and Moscow, according to a letter seen by AFP. 

In the letter written in Arabic to "the armed Syrian opposition factions," Washington's special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney said the truce deal is the "best way" to save lives.

"We believe this truce can be more effective than its predecessor because it can halt Syrian air strikes on civilians and the opposition," Ratney wrote.

"More importantly, we want to get a confirmation from you that you are ready to commit to this agreement," he added, without identifying the rebel groups.

Syria's government has approved the deal, according to state news agency SANA, while the main opposition grouping - the High Negotiations Committee - has been more cautious.

In a series of tweets, HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet said his group had yet to receive a copy of the agreement. "We saw the agreement via the media - we must receive an official copy," Meslet said.

The truce deal negotiated by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is set to enter into force on Monday, the first day of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha.

The letter specifies that fighting should halt at 7pm Damascus time (1600 GMT) on Monday, and that the initial ceasefire is to last 48 hours.

"After that, if it persists to the satisfaction of the United States and Russia, it will be extended to an agreed-upon period," Ratney wrote.

Any violations would be dealt with "based on the original truce agreement" reached in late February.

That truce - also brokered by Moscow and Washington - saw violence drop markedly across the country but frayed after several weeks.

Rebels and government forces at the time could report truce violations to a monitoring centre managed by Russia in the Hmeimim military base in coastal Syria, or to the US.

Lavrov and Kerry announced the deal late on Friday after completing marathon talks in Geneva.