New Syria cease-fire set to begin at midnight

The major players involved in the long-running Syrian conflict have agreed to a cease-fire set to begin at midnight on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier in the day.

The deal will be guaranteed by Russia and Turkey. It's set to be followed by peace talks between Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and opposition leaders. The Syrian parties would meet in Kazakhstan for the talks, though no date has been set.

Some terror groups are to be excluded from the cease-fire, though, aside from ISIS, it's unclear which -- if any -- that refers to. The head of rebel group Fastaqim told Reuters the truce only excluded ISIS. The Syrian army earlier said the agreement would exclude ISIS, the group formerly known as the Nusra Front and any group linked to it.

Ahmad Ramadan of the Syrian National Coalition said the truce reached Thursday includes a halt to airstrikes and shelling.

Ramadan said in text messages sent to The Associated Press that members of the Free Syrian Army, a loose alliance of several moderate rebel factions, will abide by the truce -- but retaliate to violations by government and allied forces.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the truce will include 62,000 opposition fighters across Syria, and that the Russian military has established a hotline with its Turkish counterpart to monitor compliance.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said President-elect Donald Trump's administration would be welcome to join the Syrian peace process once he takes office.

Russia is a key ally of Assad, while Turkey is one of the main backers of the opposition. Several previous attempts to halt the civil war have failed.

( Source )