'Huge obstacles' stand in the the way of Syria ceasefire -- but we've taken the first step

World powers said on Thursday that a plan for a “cessation of hostilities” to be implemented next week in Syria had been agreed upon.

The members of the International Syria Support Group also announced that the delivery of humanitarian aid would be accelerated throughout the country.

The 17 countries agreed “to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities to begin in a target of one week’s time,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said after a joint conference with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Business Insider that the recent push on Aleppo, the refugee crisis and the collapse of the Syria peace talks in Geneva redirected international focus to find a solution to the 5-year-conflict.

Recent events “…really showed there was another impending humanitarian crisis in Syria… and made everyone realise that [the conflict] could completely sprial out of control,” Barnes-Dacey said.

The onslaught by Russian-backed government forces on Aleppo forced an estimated 50,000 people to flee the city and has reportedly killed 500 people since the start of the offensive on February 1.

Kerry said that peace talks between Syrian rebels and the Assad government would eventually resume but that “What we need to see in the next few days are actions on the ground,” according to AFP.

The”cessation of hostilities” agreement comes a day after Saudi Arabia announced it had made a “final decision” to send troops into Syria to help fight ISIS, which prompted Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to say that further foreign intervention in Syria could lead to “a new world war.”

“A broader ceasefire is still a far off hope”

The deal secures the temporary “cessation of hostilities”, which according to AP appears to be the result of a compromise between the United States and Russia, although “efforts to secure a lasting cease-fire fell short.”

Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia group told Business Insider in an email, that a ceasefire was “still a far off hope.”

“There have been so many atrocities committed by Assad’s regime, by the rebels, and by ISIS; and international actors are very far apart on what could be an acceptable starting point, never mind end point, on a political settlement,” Bremmer said.

All in all, the international community remains sceptical that a ceasefire will be implemented anytime soon. “There is going to be a lot more fighting on the ground before some serious ceasefire can be implemented,” Barnes-Dacey said.

The main takeaway from the deal sealed by the foreign ministers from the International Syria Support Group is that more help will be delivered more quickly to besieged cities and regions in Syria. The Syrian government is besieging a number of rebel strongholds throughout the country, leaving thousands on the brink of starvation.

“At the very least, I think there’s a good chance that fighting is limited sufficiently to allow humanitarian supplies into areas under siege, reducing the prospects of widespread famine and disease,” Bremmer told Business Insider.

The Syrian government which, aided by Russian forces, has made major gains in the last few weeks, encircled and has now almost entirely cut off supply routes to Aleppo, one of the major rebel strongholds in Syria.

The offensive prompted the United Nations to warn that 300,000 people were at risk of being left without food. The water keeps getting cut off in the city and there are electricity and fuel shortages.

David Butter, an associate fellow at the Chatham House

Middle East and North Africa Programme, told Business Insider in an email that “Russia seems to be driving the show at the moment, and it appears that it wants to give the impression that it is being helpful on the humanitarian side.”

The “cessation of hostilities” agreement however does not include strikes against ISIS. ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL and Daesh) is currently being bombed by a US-led coalition, as well as by Russia.

“IS not really a priority for Russia at the moment, but all of the external actors seem to sense that IS is weakening in Iraq and Syria, and they are jockeying for position so as to take credit for its ultimate defeat,” Butter said.

The civil war in Syria has claimed over 250,000 lives so far, internally displaced over 7 million people and sent almost 4 million people fleeing to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Europe.

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