Kerry: Provisional Agreement Reached on Terms of Syria Cease-Fire

AMMAN, Jordan (Reuters) -
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint news conference with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Amman February 21, 2016. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint news conference with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Amman, Sunday. (Reuters/Muhammad Hamed)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have reached a provisional agreement on terms of a cessation of hostilities in Syria, indicating there are still unresolved issues.

“We have reached a provisional agreement in principle on the terms of a cessation of hostilities that could begin in the coming days,” Kerry told a news conference in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

Kerry said he had spoken to Lavrov on several occasions, including earlier on Sunday, and that he anticipated U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin would talk in the coming days to complete the provisional agreement in principle.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed Lavrov and Kerry had spoken by phone on Sunday about conditions for a ceasefire. It said discussions were on ceasefire conditions which would exclude operations against organizations “recognized as terrorist by U.N. Security Council.”

These are groups including Islamic State and the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

Despite the provisional agreement, Kerry did not see an imminent change in fighting on the ground.

“I do not believe that in the next few days, during which time we try to bring this into effect, there is somehow going to be a tipping point with respect to what is happening on the ground … The opposition has made clear their determination to fight back,” he said.

Kerry said any deal would take a few days to come together, while the two sides consulted with other countries and the Syrian opposition. Russia had to speak to the Syrian government and Iran, and the United States had to speak to the Syrian opposition and its partners, Kerry said.