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UN officials hope pact leads to lasting peace in Syria

UNITED NATIONS — UN officials said Friday they hope the agreement to a cessation of hostilities in Syria, a pact reached in Munich this week, will restart talks in Geneva for a lasting peace.

“The mission of this is to bring hope to the Syrian people,” Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Friday at headquarters in Manhattan.

The International Syria Support Group, led by the United States and Russia, announced hours earlier that it had reached an agreement for a pause in the fighting in Syria’s five-year civil war in order to deliver essential supplies, food and medicine to people in besieged areas.

The agreement is not a formal ceasefire, Dujarric said, but would put a stop for now to the warfare that has left some 300,000 people dead and uprooted millions, causing a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented levels.

He said the pause in warfare means “those who have their fingers on the trigger, remove that finger.”

Officials said the shooting and bombing could stop within the week, allowing waiting caravans of food and medicine to reach Syrians trapped in cities languishing on the brink of starvation as government forces battle opposition groups and terrorist organizations such as Islamic State and Nusra Front, diplomats have said.

“I’m pleased to say that as a result today in Munich we believe we have made progress on both the humanitarian front and the cessation of hostilities front,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, from the Munich conference on Friday. “And these two fronts, this progress, has the potential, fully implemented, fully followed through on, to be able to change the daily lives of the Syrian people.”

Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said the agreement complies with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, passed in December, which provided the framework for the Geneva talks that are designed to end the war.

“The main result of today’s meeting, as I believe, is the unconditional confirmation of the Resolution 2254 in full,” Lavrov said. “This refers to humanitarian aspects, political process, anti-terrorism, ceasefire, with exception for such terrorist organizations.”

The dire humanitarian crisis — which worsened as peace talks started in Geneva in late January because military actions escalated — was the main reason why Staffan de Mistura, Ban’s special envoy to Syria, called for a postponement to the talks. They have been rescheduled for Feb. 25.

Dujarric said the Munich development could speed up diplomatic efforts to end the war.

“Obviously our aim continues to be to bring the parties back to the table,” he said. “We’re obviously pleased with the outcome but the outcome is a test. I think the Syrian people would like to see the implementation of what has been decided.”


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