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Russia’s Putin says Syria government, opposition sign ceasefire deal

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Syrian opposition groups and the Syrian government had signed a number of documents including a ceasefire deal that would take effect at midnight on the night of Dec. 29-30.

He also said that Russia had agreed to reduce its military deployment in Syria.

Syrian state news agency SANA said on Thursday that the ceasefire announcement excludes the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the group formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

Putin said the truce was set to begin at midnight on Thursday (22:00 GMT) and would be followed by peace talks between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister said the truce would include 62,000 opposition fighters across Syria, and that the Russian military has established a hotline with its Turkish counterpart to monitor compliance.

The Turkish foreign ministry confirmed the agreement and called on countries with influence on groups fighting in the country to provide the necessary support for the ceasefire to last.

“Russia and Turkey strongly support the truce and will monitor it together,” the ministry said.

Ankara and Moscow have been on opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, with Turkey seeking to oust Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.

The Syrian conflict started as a largely unarmed uprising against Assad in March 2011, but quickly developed into a full-on armed conflict.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy to Syria, estimated in April that more than 400,000 Syrians had been killed since 2011.

Calculating a precise death toll is difficult, partially owing to the forced disappearances of tens of thousands of Syrians whose fates remain unknown.

Almost 11 million Syrians – half the country’s prewar population – have been displaced from their homes.

Source: News agencies

(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk, Andrey Ostroukh and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Peter Hobson)

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