What will Syria Truce deal deliver?


The Munich agreement to try to halt fighting in Syria and deliver aid to beleaguered civilians marks a significant step in efforts to resolve the five-year conflict that’s killed some 260,000 people. The accord was adopted unanimously late Thursday by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) that includes the U.S., Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, other Middle East and Gulf nations, the European Union and China. They pledged to use their influence on the Syrian government and opposition groups to secure implementation.


Q: Will the deal hold?

A: There’s a great deal of caution and skepticism. Secretary of State John Kerry called the cessation of hostilities a “pause,” and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it’ll be “difficult” to achieve a lasting cease fire. Sharif Shehadeh, a Syrian lawmaker loyal to President Bashar Assad, said he’s “not optimistic” about the agreement.


Q: What’s in it for Putin?

A: Russian President Vladimir Putin tipped the military balance in Assad’s favor with Russia’s five-month bombing campaign in Syria. By making himself indispensable in resolving the war, Putin may be gambling that he can win an easing of E.U. and U.S. sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.


Q: Will it stem the flow of refugees?

A: Not by itself. It’s too early to know if Assad’s forces and opposition groups will stop fighting and whether any truce can be made to hold. Negotiations involving the Syrian government and opposition groups over a political resolution to the conflict resume in Geneva on Feb. 25 after breaking down last week.


Q: Who’s covered by the truce?

A: It will “apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties” in Syria, except the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Nusra Front and groups “designated as terrorist organizations” by the U.N. Security Council.


Q: What about ISIL and the Nusra Front?

A: Russia, the U.S. and French forces will continue airstrikes against them. The task force created to secure the truce in Syria will also identify territory held by ISIL and the Nusra Front where it won’t apply.


Q: Who’ll get help and how?

A: Airdrops of humanitarian aid to civilians are to begin within days. A U.N. task force charged with implementing the aid agreement will convene in Geneva on Friday and report on progress at weekly meetings.


Q: How will aid workers gain access?

A: Members of the ISSG committed to use their influence with groups fighting in Syria to ensure all sides allow “immediate and sustained” access, according to the agreement.