NEW YORK (AA) — The UN Security Council on Friday endorsed a plan to halt fighting in Syria, less than an hour before the deal was set to take effect.
In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-nation body demanded the “cessation of hostilities” brokered by the U.S. and Russia to begin as planned at 00:00 Damascus time Saturday (GMT2200 Friday).
The resolution demands “all parties to whom the cessation of hostilities applies … fulfill their commitments” and urged major countries to use their influence with the warring parties “to support efforts to create conditions for a durable and lasting cease-fire”.
It calls on parties “to immediately allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria by most direct routes, allow immediate, humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas”.
It also asks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the Council on the implementation of the resolution within two weeks and every 30 days thereafter.
The agreement announced earlier in the week is for a temporary halt to fighting.
It is hoped it will allow for further aid to be delivered to desperate Syrians. The Syrian government and main opposition body announced they signed on to the deal, albeit with reservations.
Daesh and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, are excluded from the agreement.
The cessation of hostilities is the latest in a series of diplomatic efforts meant to end Syria’s five-year-old civil war.
In a briefing to the Security Council before the vote, UN’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said he plans to restart Syria peace talks on March 7 in Geneva, if the truce “largely holds” and ensures more effective delivery of humanitarian aid.
Following the adoption, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the agreement is the world’s “best chance to reduce the violence”.
“The cessation will not itself ensure a political solution is reached,” she added, “but it does at least create conditions in which one is possible.”
Power said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” about Russia’s and Syrian regime’s aerial bombardment of towns “up to the minute the cessation of hostilities is to take effect”, adding that many of these towns were not held by Daesh or the Nusra Front.
The U.K.’s Ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, also urged Russia “to turn words into actions and use its unique influence on the Asad regime, its affiliated militias and other backers to abide by this agreement.
“If they do, some much needed confidence will be brought to our hopes for a political settlement. If they don’t, we will falter again and the spiral of violence will continue,” Rycroft said.
More than 250,000 have been killed since the Syrian war began in 2011, according to the latest UN figures released several months ago.
Author Mustafa Çağlayan
[Photo: Turkey border: Syrians fleeing from Aleppo bombing at Bab al-Salam crossing opposite Turkish province of Kilis in Azaz town of Aleppo. 5 February, 2016. Photographer: Kerem Kocalar/AA]