Assad assures Putin of 'readiness' to respect Syria ceasefire: Kremlin
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
AFP photoSyrian President Bashar al-Assad has assured Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of his government's readiness to respect a ceasefire deal brokered by Moscow and Washington, the Kremlin said on Feb. 24.
The Kremlin said the two leaders discussed the deal in a phone call and that Assad noted that the proposals laid out in the agreement were an "important step in the direction of a political settlement."
"In particular, (Assad) confirmed the readiness of the Syrian government to facilitate the establishment of a ceasefire," it said in a statement
The ceasefire agreement, which does not apply to jihadists like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and Al-Nusra Front, calls for a "cessation of hostilities" between regime forces and opposition groups from midnight Friday Damascus time (2200 GMT).
Putin and Assad "stressed the importance of continuing an uncompromising fight" against the ISIL group, Al-Nusra Front and "other terrorist groups included in the relevant UN Security Council list," the Kremlin said.
Putin, whose air force is flying a bombing campaign to support Assad's troops on the ground, on Feb. 22 pledged to do "whatever is necessary" to get Damascus to uphold the deal after sealing the agreement with US President Barack Obama.
But some Washington officials have expressed doubt over whether Russia will respect the ceasefire.
Secretary of State John Kerry on Feb. 23 warned that the United States was considering a "Plan B" to deal with Syria if Damascus and Moscow do not keep their end of the bargain.
The Russian foreign ministry said Moscow was not aware of "any Plan B" and that it was important to stick to the current deal.
"We are proceeding from the fact that so many efforts have been put into the preparation of a joint communique that it's necessary now to implement it and not work out some additional plan Bs," spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Wednesday.
"This may end up contravening the agreements that have been reached because the opposition may get the wrong impression that there is an alternative to the joint communique."