The Syrian army, led by President Bashar al-Assad, temporarily halted its combat operations in the nation’s southern provinces ahead of a series of peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana, the army announced Monday. In a statement on state television, the army said the ceasefire commenced at midday on Sunday and would continue until midnight on Thursday. The latest round of Russian-sponsored peace talks between the Syrian army and local rebel groups are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
For more than six years, Syria has been embroiled in a massive civil war, resulting in a global refugee crisis and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. At the heart of the war is an ongoing battle between the Syrian army, its supporters, and various rebel groups who oppose the Assad regime. Both sides are also conducting a separate fight against ISIS, which declared a “caliphate” in the region in 2014. Al Jazeera reports that the latest ceasefire does not apply to battles against ISIS.
For the first time in the war’s history, the latest ceasefire will take place across all of southern Syria—which includes the provinces of Deraa, Quneitra, and Sweid—with the goal of “support[ing] the peace process and national reconciliation.” Still, many question whether the Syrian army fully intends to suspend violence in the region. Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the Assad regime has violated numerous ceasefire agreements—sometimes within hours of the agreement taking effect. On Monday, a spokesman for the Southern Front, a coalition of Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel groups, told Reuters that the FSA remains “very distrustful of the regime’s intentions,” arguing that the latest ceasefire “will be like the previous one.”