UN chief: Syria ceasefire holding ‘by and large’

The Syrian opposition warned on Monday that the fragile truce is facing a ‘complete nullification’ due to Assad regime’s attacks on rebels

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The UN chief said Monday a fragile Syria ceasefire was holding “by and large” despite “incidents” of fighting at the weekend and the opposition warning that the truce was facing a “complete nullification.”

“As of now I can tell you that by and large the cessation of hostilities is holding even though we have experienced some incidents,” United Nations Secretary Genera Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Geneva.

A UN-backed taskforce was also set to meet to evaluate various accusations of breaches.

The taskforce monitoring the truce is “now trying to make sure that this does not spread any further and that this cessation of hostilities can continue.”

That taskforce would meet at 3:00 pm (1400 GMT), the top UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told AFP.

The tenuous truce, negotiated by Washington and Moscow and backed by the UN, entered its third day despite reports of violations on both sides.

The special international task force co-chaired by the United States and Russia last met on Saturday, just hours after the cessation of hostilities began.

It is one of several mechanisms in place to oversee and deal with violations of the agreement, which does not apply to territory held by ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

Syrian opposition warning

On Monday, a Syrian opposition official told Al Arabiya's sister channel Al Hadath that the fragile truce is facing a “complete nullification” because of President Bashar al-Assad government’s attacks.

Asaad al-Zoubi, head of the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee’s delegation to peace talks, said the truce which came into effect early on Saturday had collapsed before it started.

“We have alternatives to protect our people” if the international community could not, it quoted him as saying without elaborating.

Zoubi added there were “no indicators” that the ground was being prepared for peace talks, which the United Nations has said it plans to reconvene on March 7.

The Syrian opposition has also sent a letter to the Security Council, saying that Russian war jets on Sunday have executed 26 raids on Syrian rebel factions who were already implementing the ceasefire.

The letter also accused Moscow of dropping cluster bombs on residential buildings, which led to the killing of many civilians.

France has also called for an immediate meeting of the Syria taskforce to discuss breaches of the cessation of hostilities that came into force on Friday night, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Monday.

Ayrault told reporters at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that he had information about attacks against zones held by moderate rebels in Syria.

“We have received indications that attacks, including air strikes are continuing in areas controlled by the moderate opposition,” Ayrault told reporters in Geneva.

“This must all of course be verified. France has therefore asked that the task force overseeing the implementation of the cessation of hostilities meets without delay,” he said on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government said on Monday Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister was trying to thwart a fragile cessation of hostilities agreement.

“What Adel al-Jubeir says ... about a plan B regarding the current developments in Syria is merely ... an attempt to thwart the cessation of hostilities,” a Syrian foreign ministry official was quoted as saying in a statement on state media.

Aid delivery

On Monday, aid workers began carrying out the first delivery of humanitarian assistance to Syrians since the landmark truce came into effect at the weekend, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said.

The Red Crescent said that 10 trucks of aid including blankets and hygiene supplies provided by the United Nations had entered the besieged Syrian town of Moadamiyet al-Sham southwest of Damascus.

(With AFP, Reuters)

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