World powers agreed on Feb. 11 to cease hostilities in Syria within the following week, bringing much-needed relief to a civil war that has raged since 2011.
The announcement was made by US Secretary of State John Kerry after all-day peace talks in Germany, and was created jointly with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, according to the BBC. Forged by the International Syria Support Group, the agreement will be implemented by a task force chaired by the US and Russia, which will attempt to negotiate with Syrian rebel groups fighting against government forces led by President Bashar al-Assad.
The agreement, designated a “cessation of hostilities” by Kerry, will provide a pause in the fighting to allow food and medical aid to go through while peace talks continue. The next step, according to Kerry, is to negotiate a formal cease-fire, which requires a set series of steps recognized by international law.
“We have agreed to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities in one week’s time,” Kerry said at the announcement, according to The New York Times. “That’s ambitious. The real test is whether all the parties honor these commitments.”
The pause in fighting does not apply to military actions taken against the Islamic State or al-Nusra Front, both of which are designated terrorist groups within Syria by the United Nations.
The move comes as Syrian government forces approach the besieged city of Aleppo, backed by Russian airstrikes. The U.S. and Russia have had difficulty cooperating over U.S. accusations that Russia has been attacking moderate Syrian rebels instead of Islamic State targets, a claim that Russia denies.
Since 2011, over 250,000 people have died in the conflict that began as a peaceful protest against the sitting president, Bashar al-Assad. 4.4 million people have fled Syria and millions have been displaced within the country, creating a refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East.