U.S., Russia Reach 'Provisional Agreement' on Terms of Syria Cease-fire

Kerry, Russia's Lavrov reach preliminary deal: 'A cessation of hostilities... is possible over the course of these next hours.'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry steps off a plane upon arrival at Ciampino Airport near Rome, December 13, 2015.
AP

REUTERS – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have reached a provisional agreement on terms of a cessation of hostilities in Syria, indicating there are still unresolved issues.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Saturday he was ready for a cease-fire to end a five-year civil war, on condition "terrorists" did not use a lull in fighting to their advantage and that countries backing insurgents halted support for them. 

The Syrian opposition had earlier said it had agreed to the "possibility" of a temporary truce, provided there were guarantees Damascus's allies including Russia would cease fire, sieges were lifted and aid deliveries were allowed country-wide. 

"We have reached a provisional agreement in principle on the terms of a cessation of hostilities that could begin in the coming days," Kerry told a news conference in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. 

Kerry said he had spoken to Lavrov repeatedly, including a conversation earlier on Sunday, and that he anticipated that U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin would be speaking in the coming days in order to complete the provisional agreement in principle. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed Lavrov and Kerry had spoken about conditions for a cease-fire in Syria on the telephone on Sunday. It said discussions were on cease-fire conditions, which would exclude operations against organizations "recognized as terrorist by UN Security Council." 

In Amman, Kerry said the two sides are "filling out the details."

"The modalities for a cessation of hostilities are now being completed. In fact, we are closer to a cease-fire today than we have been," Kerry said. 

Kerry was visiting the Jordanian capital for meetings with Judeh and King Abdullah for talks on the situation in the region. 

He said any deal would take a few days, while the two sides consulted with other countries and the Syrian opposition. Russia has to speak to the Syrian government and Iran, and the United States has to speak to the Syrian opposition and its partners, Kerry said. 

He declined to go into any details and said he did not expect an imminent change in the fighting on the ground.

"I do not believe that in the next few days, during which time we try to bring this into effect, there is somehow going to be a tipping point with respect to what is happening on the ground... The opposition has made clear their determination to fight back," Kerry said.