NATO chief states that Russian military build-up threatens peace in Syria

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After tense negotiations regarding a temporary peace ended in a tentative deal last week, implementation of the truce is now underway.

On Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg claimed that the fragile truce was holding, but that he was concerned with a large Russian military build-up in the region.

In a news conference held in Kuwait, Stoltenberg said that, “We have seen some encouraging developments that the ceasefire is largely holding but at the same time we have seen some reports about violations of the ceasefire.”

The good signs are clear: there have been signficantly fewer airstrikes in the region since the truce went into effect, and humanitarian aid groups have rushed in to assist the wounded and starving.

The U.N. and its partners are hoping that the time will prove fruiful for these humanitarian groups.

The U.N. is hoping to assist 150,000 civilians over the next few days, and 1.7 million by the end of March.

However signs that the truce is fracturing, or even stillborn, are just as plentiful, and perhaps more impactful.

The truce called for a complete cessasstion of hostilities between the warring factions with the exception of ISIS.

However many on the ground have reported that, although the violence has slowed, it remains prevalent in the region.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his powerful Russian allies have already made clear that they will continue to fight “terrorists” and other militants even during the ceasefire.

During the time the truce has been in effect, residents of rebel-occupied towns and cities have reported that bombs have continued to fall.

The international monitoring and watchdog group for Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has said that 183 people have been killed since since Saturday.

Among these were 89 ISIS fighters killed during airstrikes against Raqqa, to de facto capital of the terrorist group.

The rest were killed by bombs which targeted the Aleppo region, a stronghold for non-ISIS rebels fighting against the Assad regime.

The issue isn’t the strikes against ISIS, the only group to be excluded from the truce, but the strikes against non-ISIS “moderate” rebels.

These rebels were inluded in the truce, in part because the West feels their concerns are valid and in part because their cooperation is necessary to enable humanitarian aid to reach the region.

As a result of breaches of the agreement the French goverment has called a meeting of the monitoring body, the International Syria Support Group, which will meet in Geneva.

The meeting will investigate the alleged breaches, and determine whether they are on purpose, a result of differing interpretations of the truce, or a product of military error.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led High Negotiating Council, which represents rebel groups, claims the Syrian government and its Russian allies broke the truce 15 times on the first day.

Russia, however, claims the rebel groups broke the truce nine times, but that the truce is holding in general, despite evidence by people on the ground to the contrary.

 

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