The United Nations special envoy for Syria has said he plans to resume peace talks on 7 March if a cessation of hostilities negotiated by the United States and Russia that began at midnight local time "largely holds."
Staffan de Mistura briefed the UN Security Council from Geneva via video conference, following a meeting of envoys from the 17-member International Syria Support Group which is supposed to monitor implementation of the agreement. "This will remain a complicated, painstaking process," he told the council. But he added that "nothing is impossible, especially at this moment."
De Mistura, however, warned he had "no doubt there will be no shortage of attempts to undermine this process."
Shortly after de Mistura's briefing, the 15-member council voted unanimously to approve a resolution endorsing the cease-fire agreement. The cease-fire began shortly afterward.
If the cessation of hostilities holds, it would mark the first time international negotiations have managed to achieve a pause in Syria's civil war, which shortly will enter its sixth year.
Even as council members spoke in support of the agreement, strains showed. Russia warned against "the harmful practice of
providing external support to armed groups."
And British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said "Russia must turn words into actions" and use its influence on its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad said, "If they don't, we will falter again."
According to a draft, the resolution urges the UN secretary-general to resume the peace talks "as soon as possible."
It also expresses support for an international working group whose task is to "accelerate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid," with the goal of sustained and unimpeded aid access to all parts of Syria.
That includes areas where hundreds of thousands of people find themselves besieged, most of them by Syrian government forces or the Islamic State group.
For the cease-fire to succeed, multiple armed factions will have to adhere to its terms.
The Syrian government and a leading opposition bloc have agreed to the cessation of hostilities, but the accord excludes UN-designated terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Nusra Front, which hold swaths of Syrian territory.
US Ambassador Samantha Power told the council that the cessation of hostilities will not in itself ensure that a political solution in Syria is reached. But she said the "vast majority" of the opposition is ready to cooperate with the cease-fire.