The United States and Russia struck an agreement Friday on a cease-fire in southwest Syria, crowning President Donald Trump’s first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is the first U.S.-Russian effort under Trump’s presidency to stem Syria’s six-year civil war.
The cease-fire went into effect Sunday at noon Damascus time. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who accompanied Trump in his meeting with Putin, said the understanding is designed to reduce violence in an area of Syria near Jordan’s border that is critical to the U.S. ally’s security.
It’s a “very complicated part of the Syrian battlefield,” Tillerson told reporters after the U.S. and Russian leaders met for more than 2 hours on the sidelines of a global summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Of the agreement, he said, “I think this is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria.”
For years, the former Cold War foes have been backing opposing sides in Syria’s war. Moscow has staunchly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, supporting Syrian forces militarily since 2015. Washington has backed rebels fighting Assad. Both the U.S. and Russia oppose Islamic State militants and say they’re focused on rooting out the extremist group.
The potential pitfalls for the cease-fire are clear — not least the challenge of enforcing it.
Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russian military police would monitor the new truce. But Tillerson said that was still being worked out. A senior U.S. State Department official said the two countries were close to a deal on that issue and hoped to finalize it in the coming days, raising the prospect it could take effect Sunday with no clear sense of who is policing it.