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Assad: Syrian Ceasefire a 'Glimmer of Hope'

In this picture taken Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, destroyed buildings are seen in the old city of Homs, Syria. About 1,200 rebels and civilians, many of them wounded and starving from a yearlong siege, withdrew from the last remaining strongholds in Homs in May 2014, surrendering to President Bashar Assad a bloodstained city once called the “capital of the revolution.” (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Assad: Syrian Ceasefire a “Glimmer of Hope”
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Tuesday the suspension of fighting in his country after five years of war is, in his words, a “glimmer of hope.”

The Syrian leader spoke on German television. He said his government will work to make the ceasefire permanent.

Pro-government fighters and opposition forces in Syria have agreed to stop fighting. But the ceasefire does not include Islamic State militants or supporters of Jabhat al-Nusra, a group linked to al-Qaida.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the next few days are very important to strengthening the truce and ending the conflict. He spoke to reporters Monday in Washington.

Kerry said he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agree there have been some violations of the truce since it began on Saturday. But he said they do not want to talk about them publicly. He said a group led by the United States and Russia will investigate every reported violation and urge all sides to honor the truce agreement.

Kerry said it is a difficult process, “but the fact is that we need to stop the cycle of fighting and of bloodshed that is destroying Syria. It is that simple.”

On Monday, Syrian rebels reported that government forces attacked opposition-controlled villages and towns 26 times.

Riad Hijab is the top negotiator for the rebels. In a letter to the United Nations, he said the Syrian government “has continued to target populated areas using helicopter raids using explosive barrels, resulting in a large number of fatalities and causing significant injuries, most of whom were innocent women and children.”

On Sunday, Hijab said Russian fighter jets launched 26 air strikes on territory held by opposition groups, which have agreed to stop fighting.

Rebels say a map released at the beginning of the truce by the Russian Ministry of Defense is filled with mistakes. The map is said to show the positions of moderate opposition groups in Syria. The rebels have asked the UN to make a new map.

On Sunday, Russian ceasefire monitors said they have recorded nine violations of the truce. They blamed rebels for most of them.

Separately on Monday, the U.N. and aid groups began transporting supplies to areas that need them. They hope to reach more than 150,000 Syrians in areas that have been affected by the fighting.

Yacoub El Hillo is the UN humanitarian chief for Syria. He said “the (ceasefire) is the best opportunity that the Syrian people have had over the last five years for lasting peace and stability.”

Staffan de Mistura is the special UN diplomat for Syria. He has said that if the truce remains in effect and aid groups continue to be able to bring supplies to areas that need them he will restart Syrian peace talks on March 9. That is two days later than the date he set earlier.

A UN spokesman said the delay was needed to let officials deal with “logistical and practical matters.”

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise. reported on this story, with additional information from Jamie Dettmer in Gaziantep, Turkey and Correspondent Margaret Besheer at the United Nations. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their reports for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

glimmer – n. a small amount or sign of something

bloodshed - n. violence

fatalities - n. deaths resulting from an accident or violence

opportunity - n. chance; likelihood

stability - n. the quality of something that is not easily changed