MIDDLE EAST

Syrian opposition, regime agree eastern Ghouta truce, Russia pledges enforcement

SYRIAN OPPOSITION, REGIME AGREE EASTERN GHOUTA TRUCE, RUSSIA PLEDGES ENFORCEMENT
An empty rocket reportedly fired by the Assad regime forces on the Syrian opposition-held besieged town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, Syria, Jan. 22, 2018. (Reuters Photo)

A Syrian opposition spokesman said the opposition and the Assad regime have signed a cease-fire agreement over the fighting in the suburbs of Damascus.

Ahmad Ramadan said the agreement was signed Friday, on the second and last day of a U.N.-mediated round of peace talks in Vienna.

According to a member of the Free Syrian Army's (FSA) military council, the opposition delegation also received a pledge from Russia that it would press the regime to enforce a ceasefire in the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta.

"There was a Russian pledge to the negotiating team ... It will begin at 12, after midnight today," Ayman al Asemi told Reuters.

The regime forces and Russian jets have for the last two months been escalating their bombardment of the besieged opposition enclave near Damascus, killing dozens of civilians and injuring hundreds, the opposition and aid workers say.

However, the spokesman for the opposition's negotiation committee at the Vienna talks, Yahya al-Aridi, did not confirm the Russian pledge, saying only: "There are negotiations about this."

International concern has been rising over the fate of eastern Ghouta, where the U.N. says acute shortages of food and medicine have contributed to the worst malnutrition seen in the Syrian civil war.

The enclave is home to almost 400,000 people and is in an agreed "de-escalation zone" under Russian-led ceasefire deals for opposition-held territory, but the fighting there has continued.

On Wednesday, Russia denied accusations that it and the Assad regime was behind a chemical attack in eastern Ghouta on Jan. 22.

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