Syria's nationwide ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey; deal excludes Islamic State

Damascus: A nationwide ceasefire in Syria brokered by Russia and Turkey took effect at midnight (local time), in a potentially major breakthrough in the conflict of more than five years.

The deal, which does not include designated "terrorists" like the Islamic State group, was announced hours earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin and confirmed by the Syrian army and opposition.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there had been "total calm since the start of the ceasefire in many provinces all over Syria" adding that "no violations were monitored in all regions".

According to an AFP correspondent in Eastern Ghouta, the shelling and airstrikes stopped from more than one hour in the region after intensive shelling and raids on Thursday.

AFP correspondents in Damascus and Idlib said there had been no sound of shelling, airstrikes or clashes since midnight.

 Syrias nationwide ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey; deal excludes Islamic State

File photo of Syria president Bashar al- Assad. AFP

The agreement, hailed by Syria's government as a "real opportunity" to find a political solution to the war, comes a week after the regime recaptured second city Aleppo in a major blow to rebel forces.

The deal was brokered by Russia and Turkey, which back opposing sides in the conflict, but does not involve Washington, which has negotiated previous ceasefires with Moscow.

Putin said Damascus and the "main forces of the armed opposition" had inked a truce and a document expressing a readiness to start peace talks.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the agreement as a "historic opportunity" to end the Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 3,10,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

Putin said he would also reduce Moscow's military contingent in Syria that has been flying a bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad since last year.

The Kremlin strongman, however, said Russia would continue to fight "terrorism" in Syria and maintain its support for the regime.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said seven opposition groups, including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham, had signed the deal and those who failed to adhere would be considered "terrorists".

Erdogan indicated Turkey would press on with its four-month incursion into Syria against Islamic State group jihadists and Kurdish militia. Syria's army said the deal did not include IS and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, now rebranded the Fateh al-Sham Front.

That could cause complications in areas like Idlib in northwestern Syria, where Fateh al-Sham is allied with rebel groups that have signed on to the deal. Syria's political opposition and rebels had confirmed their backing for the truce, saying it applied to all parts of the country.

"The agreement is for all of Syria and contains no exceptions or preconditions," said Osama Abou Zeid, a legal adviser to rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner.

Updated Date: Dec 30, 2016 11:16:59 IST