White House: Syria ceasefire agreement ‘important step’

A Syrian rebel fighter. file photo

The White House on Friday said the agreement for a temporary ceasefire in the Syrian conflict is significant, but work is far from over in the peace talks.

“In the coming days we will be looking for actions, not words, to demonstrate that all parties are prepared to honor their commitments,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters in a briefing. 

Schultz said Russia had contributed to the humanitarian crisis in Syria by targeting areas where there was little ISIS presence.

“It is time for them to stop using the cover of going after ISIL to become more involved in the sectarian civil war,” he said, using an acronym for ISIS. 

But a Pentagon spokesman said U.S.-led operations by the international coalition against ISIS would continue.

“Our operations there will continue,” Captain Jeff Davis said at a news conference.

The coalition carries out strikes against ISIS in Syria as well as Al-Nusra, a local branch of Al-Qaeda.

Neither group is covered by the plan agreed to Friday by 17 countries during talks led by the US and Russia.

Davis also rejected the idea of increasing military cooperation in Syria between the U.S. and Russia, a point raised by Moscow during the talks.

“There is no change,” he said, adding that cooperation will continue to be limited to exchanging information to prevent accidents in the sky over Syria as Russia carries out its own bombing campaign.

The U.S. military also does not plan to be involved in humanitarian operations called for in the new agreement, Davis said.

Questions remain over whether the ambitious plan to end hostilities in Syria will be effective. If measures go into effect next week as planned, it would be a step toward stemming the violence that has killed 260,000 since 2011.


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