The United States and Russia have agreed to extend cessation of hostilities in war-ravaged Syria, says the US State Department, asserting the arrangement between the two world powers is still “holding.”
During a Tuesday briefing, the department spokesman, Mark Toner, made the announcement, citing a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
"Secretary did speak with Foreign Minister Lavrov earlier today. It was - I guess I'd describe it as a signals check: where we stand on the cessation of hostilities and the seven days that's required before we get to the next stage. And I think there was agreement between the two of them that as a whole, despite sporadic reports of violence, as a whole, the arrangement is holding, and violence is I'd say is significantly lower in comparison to previous days and weeks,” he said.
Toner added that the two top diplomats agreed to continue cessation of hostilities in the Muslim country for another 48 hours “as part of the conversation.”
The agreement has sparked skepticism from Pentagon about military cooperation with Moscow, which has been banned by the Congress over reunification of Crimea with Russia.
"We conduct military operations with our allies and partners, and Russia is neither," Evelyn Farkas, the former US deputy assistant defense secretary who is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, told the Associated Press "So, it makes this very fraught with all kinds of risk for us -- military and political."
According to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, more than 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.