World powers 'agree Syria ceasefire'

World powers agree Syria ceasefire, says John Kerry

The aftermath of airstrikes in rebel-held AleppoImage copyright Reuters
Image caption The Syrian government has been closing in on rebel-held areas of the city of Aleppo

World powers meeting on Syria have agreed to seek a nationwide “cessation of hostilities” within a week, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

But he said the halt would not apply to the fight with jihadist groups Islamic State (IS) and al-Nusra Front.

He also said the powers had agreed to immediately accelerate and expand the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The announcement comes as the Syrian army, backed by Russian air strikes, advances in Aleppo province.

The move threatens to encircle tens of thousands of civilians in rebel-held parts of the major city of Aleppo.

Mr Kerry admitted the ceasefire plan was “ambitious” and said the real test would be whether the parties honoured the commitments.

“What we have here are words on paper, what we need to see in the next few days are actions on the ground,” he said.

A UN task force will be set up to ensure humanitarian access is granted to all sides, Mr Kerry added.

He made the announcement alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

Mr Lavrov said there were “reasons to hope we have done a great job today”.

At the press conference Mr Kerry again suggested that Russian strikes were targeting opposition forces, rather than terrorists as Moscow says.

But both men agreed that peace talks involving the Syrian government and rebels should resume as soon as possible.

BBC News – World