Fragile truce in place, but Islamic State and al-Nusra Front excluded

A ceasefire takes hold in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Deera. Turkey maintains its threats. A car bomb explodes in Hama province. For UN envoy, if the truce holds, intra-Syrian talks can resume on 7 March.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – A truce between the regime and rebel groups came into force at midnight and seems to be holding, for now. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by the US and Russia endorse the truce agreement.

United Nations special envoy for the Syria crisis Staffan de Mistura said that if the truce holds, intra-Syrian peace talks might resume before 7 March. Previous attempts foundered in early February.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and about a hundred rebel factions and Kurdish forces declared that they would respect the ceasefire.

However, the Islamic State (IS) group and the al-Nusra Front are excluded. The latter – an ally of several rebel factions – announced last night that it would continue fighting.

Turkey, which has used anti-terrorism as an excuse to fight Kurdish irredentism, said it has not ruled out air strikes against Syrian Kurdish militias that are fighting IS.

The Al-Nusra Front and IS occupy more than half of Syria’s territory, in the central and southeastern regions of the country.

The truce is holding in about 10 per cent of the country: Damascus, Aleppo, Deera (south) and Homs (centre).

So far, only one act of violence has been reported. A car bomb struck a checkpoint on the eastern edges of the town of Salamiyeh in Hama province, killing two soldiers.

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, gunfire was reported north of Lattakia, blamed on Islamists.

This is the first large-scale ceasefire across the country. The war in Syria, which has lasted for five years, has killed more than 270,000 people, mostly civilians, and created 11 million refugees, more than half of the population.

On the ground, the Syrian army has been battling Syrian rebels, as well as Islamists from 80 nations, with the direct or indirect involvement of international players like Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United States and Russia.