MESOP NEWS Syria Daily: US Envoy Welcomes Russian Monitors for Ceasefire

By Scott Lucas – eawolrdview – 14 July 2017 – The US has endorsed Russian monitors on the ground for a ceasefire in southwest Syria.Brett McGurk, the US special envoy for the campaign against the Islamic State, said on Thursday, “The Russians have made clear they’re very serious about this and willing to put some of their people on the ground to help monitor from the regime side. They do not want the regime violating the ceasefire.”

McGurk’s remark is yet another shift in Washington’s position since the first US-Russian agreement for “de-escalation” was announced last Friday and went into effect on Sunday. On Wednesday, the State Department tried to pull back Russia’s proclamations of a joint monitoring center with the US and Jordan, based in the Jordanian capital Amman: “In terms of who is doing what, when, where, how, some of those details are still being worked out.”

Both Buzzfeed and Foreign Policy reported, citing officials, that “the US military has received no guidance on how to enforce the ceasefire” after Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the de-escalation agreement at the G20 summit in Germany last week.

McGurk said yesterday that he was “very encouraged” by progress since the ceasefire took effect.The agreement has reduced violence in provinces along the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, including in Daraa city, where the Syrian uprising began in 2011. However, pro-Assad forces have continued shelling in the de-escalation zone and have redeployed forces for offensives in southeast Syria and the Damascus suburbs. Fierce fighting was reported in Jobar in northeast Damascus on Thursday, with video showing rebels forcing a regime unit to withdraw after taking casualties.

Speaking in Paris on Thursday, Trump said talks were underway to negotiate a ceasefire in a second region of Syria.

McGurk was cautious about Trump’s assertion, “I think the president is referring to a very constructive discussion that he had with the Russians in building from this southwest agreement,” but he added that the US had “very constructive…military-to-military discussions with the Russians about deconfliction arrangements” and is keen to explore the possibility of ceasefires in other areas.