Syrian army declares city ceasefire as Russia, UN plan July peace talks

Syrian army halts combat operations for two days in southern city

Russian Federation has proposed July 4 as the start of a two-day round of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan's capital Astana.

In an emailed statement, the office of United Nations special mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura said he wished to convene a seventh round of Geneva talks in July and further rounds in August and September, reported Reuters news agency.

The Syrian army general command said the ceasefire, effective at 0900 GMT on Saturday, was being implemented to support "reconciliation efforts", according to a statement carried by state news agency SANA.

The news follows the Syrian military's announcement of the cessation of all combat operations in the southern city of Daraa for 48 hours in support of national reconciliation.

Russia, Turkey and Iran, who back opposing sides in Syria's brutal civil war, have brokered several rounds of peace talks in Astana this year, bringing together the Syrian government and rebel forces.

"We welcome any initiative to reduce tensions and violence in southern Syria and thereby call on the Syrian regime to live up to its own stated commitments during this ceasefire initiative", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Saturday.

"The opposition should similarly halt attacks to allow the ceasefire to endure, and hopefully be extended", the statement added.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed since the war began more than six years ago, and the conflict has sparked a region-wide refugee crisis that has affected countries across the world. Since May, violence levels have vastly reduced in some of those proposed de-escalation areas, but fighting has continued on major frontline areas including in Deraa city.

Smoke rises from buildings following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, on June 14, 2017.

De Mistura said this week a new round of talks would depend on the progress made in setting up the de-escalation zones.

The ceasefire on Saturday marked the beginning of the seventh round of negotiations in Geneva.

The SOHR said there was a "cautious calm" by 7pm local time (16:00 GMT) on Saturday.

She reported that the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces are fighting ISIL from the north, east and west.



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