Jo Cox: Syrian ceasefire tipped in President Assad and Russia's favour

Jo Cox, Chair of the Friends of Syria All Party Parliamentary Group and MP for Batley and Spen.
Jo Cox, Chair of the Friends of Syria All Party Parliamentary Group and MP for Batley and Spen.
Have your say

A CEASEFIRE in the war torn country of Syria has been cautiously welcomed by the international community, some of whom are wary of Russia's commitment to ending their bombing campaign.

Diplomats meeting at a summit in Munich, Germany, agreed to seek a "nationwide cessation of hostilities" between Syrian government forces and rebel groups, US secretary of state John Kerry announced in the early hours of Friday.

The agreement by world powers, including Russia, is the latest twist in a conflict which has killed an estimated quarter of a million people and displaced millions of refugees, many of whom have headed for Europe.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond welcomed the settlement but warned it would succeed only if Russia - which backs Syrian President Assad - ceased bombing moderate opposition groups.

He said: "The International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Munich committed members to achieving a cessation of hostilities within a week, to delivering humanitarian assistance to named besieged communities by this weekend and to facilitating rapid progress in negotiations aimed at political transition.

"If implemented fully and properly by every ISSG member, this will be an important step towards relieving the killing and suffering in Syria. But it will only succeed if there is a major change of behaviour by the Syrian regime and its supporters.

"Russia, in particular, claims to be attacking terrorist groups and yet consistently bombs non-extremist groups including civilians. If this agreement is to work, this bombing will have to stop: no cessation of hostilities will last if moderate opposition groups continue to be targeted."

Former head of policy for global charity Oxfam, Jo Cox, who is now MP for Batley and Spen said she was 'nervous' about how workable the deal is.

"Progress on getting aid to starving people is very welcome but without an immediate end to Russian air strikes this is not really a ceasefire and it certainly does not do enough to reassure us that the protection of innocent Syrian civilians is at the centre of the plan," said the Labour politician who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Friends of Syria group.

"There is a great deal of imbalance in the deal, which will benefit Assad and allow Russian bombardments to continue.

"This will be very difficult for the Syrian Opposition to reconcile. Not least due to concerns that Russia will use the time prior to the ceasefire to help Assad's forces seize more territory."

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Russian air strikes against terrorist groups would continue and denied there had been strikes against civilians in rebel-held areas.

US secretary of state John Kerry said the proposed truce would depend on "whether or not all the parties honour those commitments and implement them" while Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn said Russia had to end its bombing of the Syrian opposition.

President Assad claimed in a rare interview just hours before the ceasefire that he had concerns the conflict will widen to involve Turkey and Saudi Arabia who support the opposition forces in Syria's civil war.