U.S. President Obama has said on Thursday that the coming weeks will be “critical” for Syria’s future, ahead of a two-week truce due to start on Friday.
Obama warned Russia that all parties to the cessation of hostilities needed to stop attacks, “including air strikes”.
“If successful, the truce could be a first step towards ending the chaos and violence in Syria.”
The American President also vowed to defeat the so-called Islamic State (IS/ISIS), which he said was “not a caliphate but a crime ring”.
Obama said the success of the cessation of hostilities would depend on whether parties including the Syrian government, Russia and their allies lived up to their commitments.
“Attacks needed to end and humanitarian aid had to be allowed through to desperate civilians,” he said. “The coming days will be critical and the world will be watching.”
He added that factional rivalry among the rebels, as well as the campaign against ISIS, meant “there would be no immediate end to violence.”
He stressed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had to step down from power as part of any solution to Syria’s civil war, but acknowledged there was “significant dispute” with Russia and its allies over this point.
“It is clear that after years of barbarity against his people, many will not stop fighting until Assad is out of power,” Obama said.
According to the U.S. President, progress was being made in the fight against ISIS, but the only way to inflict a lasting defeat on the radical group was “to bring an end to the Syrian conflict.”
He pointed out that ISIS had not had a single successful offensive operation in Syria or Iraq since last summer. “The group has lost 40% of its territory. The flow of foreign fighters to ISIS in Syria was slowing.”
“More people are realising that ISIS is not a caliphate, it’s a crime ring. They are not winning over hearts and minds, they are under pressure,” Obama said. “In the end the brutality of ISIS is no match for the yearning of millions who want to live in safety and dignity.”
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