An uneasy calm has settled on the city of Aleppo after the partial truce in Syria was extended to this divided city.
The deal was brokered for days by officials from the United States, Russia, and Syria after days of diplomacy by American and Russian envoys.
However, details regarding the terms of the partial truce (such as, its duration, whether new conditions will be imposed on the Syrian government or insurgents) have remained largely obscure.
The negotiations over the timing of the temporary truce were imprecise, leaving room for discrepancies. While the U.S. State Department asserted that the truce started at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, the Syrian state television stated that the truce would go into effect at 1 a.m. on Thursday.
Furthermore, the truce has kept the details of the disagreement centering around the United States, Russia, and Syria unclear. The deal fails to clarify the main conflict between the U.S., which is backing some Syrian insurgents, and Russia, which, in opposition, is supporting the Syrian government.
Because of Russia’s loyalties to the existing Syrian regime, Syrian rebels are at risk of attack from not only their own government but also from Russian airstrikes.
The lack of clarity exemplifies one of the key issues at the heart of the Syrian conflict. The al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front fighters (along with the Islamic State) are not included in the temporary truce. However, these fighters are intermingled in territories claimed by Syrian rebels that have agreed to the partial truce.
Because of the presence of these Nusra front fighters in these territories, the Russian government argues that these territories can be targeted, despite protestations by the United States.
Although the U.S. has advised the rebels it is backing to dissociate from the rebels who are not included in the truce as a countermeasure against Russian airstrikes, the separation is not logistically feasible. Still, the extension of the partial truce into Syria is an important step.
The city of Aleppo, located in northern Syria, has been an epicenter of waves of unrest that have shaken the nation. In the city in the past two weeks alone, the fighting between government forces and Syrian rebels has resulted in over 300 deaths.
Indeed, violence within Aleppo has threatened to bring an end to the cessation of hostilities that has been declared in Syria while peace talks have been underway.
Aleppo garners importance as a critical battleground between the two opposing forces in the civil war because it is split between government-controlled and insurgent-held territories.
The violence in the city effectively ended a two-month cease-fire that temporarily kept down the Syrian death toll. The break was brief. Throughout the six of wars experienced by Syria, there has never been a truly complete cessation of hostilities.
There have been warnings that if the partial truce is unsuccessful, a continuation of fighting could be disastrous for Syria.
The United Nations envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warns that a failure to cease hostilities could potentially lead 400,000 more Syrian refugees to flee their homes for the Turkish border.
A peaceful future for Syria future looks to be a long way off, even in the face of all of these dealings for a truce. The under secretary general, Jeffrey Feltman, told diplomats that coming to a deal to attain just “one day of silence,” i.e. of a partial truce, had proved highly “challenging.”
The Syrian insurgents have taken the opportunity afforded by the peace talks to further assert their dissatisfaction with their current government.
The High Negotiations Committee, the Syrian opposition group that has been exiled for their objections to any political solution that includes current President Bashar al-Assad, issued a statement, saying that the truce should cover “all areas of Syria, not just select locations. Our people deserve a relief from bombs of terror being rained on them by the regime…and a lasting solution to the bloodshed, which means a Syria free of Assad.”
Even as the United Nation conferred during an emergency session on Wednesday afternoon, both the Syrian government and its opposition carried out new military offensives.
This has help fuel doubts on both sides that the partial truce will be a lasting one.