A 17-member International Syria Support Group (ISSG) met in Munich Thursday, agreeing on a task force co-chaired by the U.S. and Russia that has committed to the delivery of aid and the "cessation of hostilities" within a week, on the way to a more formal cease-fire in the region. If executed, the ambitious agreement would mark the first formally declared halt to the fighting in Syria that began with the 2011 uprising, according to the New York Times.
The agreements come after an accelerated Russian air campaign that has given fresh support to the government of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, and caused diplomatic tensions between Russia and the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that a cease-fire would not apply to groups that the United Nations considers terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State and al-Nusra.
Critics are skeptical about how much can truly be achieved through this agreement, and even Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov admitted repeatedly in the hour-long news conference that this is only progress on paper. Some diplomats are already saying "it's not worth the paper it's printed on," reports the BBC.
It's still not immediately clear how Assad's government or the leaders of the various fractious rebel groups will comply with the plan, which will see airdrops of food and supplies to war-torn regions. However, Kerry and Lavrov said both the aid and cessation of hostilities will be presided over by task forces responsible for reporting violations.
In the past week alone, 100,000 Syrians have fled from their homes, according to the International Rescue Committee. Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said, "the most important thing is to somehow pressure the Russians and the Syrians to stop the aerial bombardments which are causing these floods of refugees," according to Voice of America. In response to accusations from human rights groups that Russian bombs have been hitting civilian targets, Lavrov was defensive. "Some do lie," he said.