Bashar Assad ‘reassures’ Vladimir Putin over commitment to truce

The Syrian president has assured Russia’s Vladimir Putin of Damascus’ commitment to a Russia-US proposed truce, even as a spokesman for a Saudi-backed alliance of Syrian opposition and rebel factions expressed “major concerns” about the ceasefire, due to begin this week.

Bashar Assad ‘reassures’ Vladimir Putin over commitment to truce

Salem Al Meslet, spokesman for the alliance known as the High Negotiations Committee, said his group is worried that Russia and Syrian president Bashar Assad’s forces would continue to strike at mainstream rebels under the pretext of hitting “terrorist groups” during the truce.

The agreement, engineered by the US and Russia, is set to take effect at midnight tomorrow local time. It does not cover the Islamic State group, Syria’s al-Qaeda branch known as the Nusra Front, or any other militia designated as a terrorist group by the UN Security Council.

Yesterday, Assad and Putin discussed the truce agreement in a telephone call, according to the Syrian state-run news agency and a Russian official. SANA said Mr Putin called Mr Assad, adding that the two leaders stressed the importance of continuing to fight the Islamic State, the Nusra Front “and other terrorist organisations”.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed the phone call, saying there were differences in opinion between Moscow and Damascus but that Russia is one of the few countries still in contact with “the legitimate Syrian leader”. He did not elaborate.

Speaking in a conference call with journalists, he said Moscow was doing its part and is expecting the US to also do its part to make sure the groups they support adhere to the ceasefire.

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