Syria regime 'agrees' to Eastern Ghouta ceasefire after days of heavy shelling

Syria regime 'agrees' to Eastern Ghouta ceasefire after days of heavy shelling
Ahead of the eighth round of peace talks, the Assad government has agreed to a Russian proposed ceasefire on Eastern Ghouta
2 min read
28 November, 2017
After days of heavy shelling, Syrian regime forces have agreed to a ceasefire in opposition-held Eastern Ghouta, the United Nations envoy said on Tuesday.

"I was just informed by the Russians today at the P5 meeting that the Russians have proposed and the government has accepted a ceasefire on Eastern Ghouta because we were and are very concerned about it," Staffan de Mistura told reporters in Geneva, in the eighth round of peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian conflict.  

"Now we need to see whether this takes place but it's not coincidental that this has actually been proposed and agreed upon just at the beginning of this session (of peace talks in Geneva)."

De Mistura added that he had been made aware of the proposal from a Russian envoy earlier on Tuesday in a meeting of ambassadors from the Security Council representatives.

Eastern Ghouta has been under siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces since 2013, and is one of the last remaining opposition strongholds in Syria.

Recent weeks have seen an increase in violence, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting regime airstrikes and shelling on Ghouta killing at least 43 people over the weekend.

At least 123 civilians have been killed in the besieged suburb by airstrikes and shelling since the Syrian regime and Russian jets began an offensive two weeks ago, the group added. 

The World Health Organisation has also expressed "grave" concerns over the deteriorating situation in Eastern Ghouta with the needs of up to 400,000 people besieged not met.

The statements come at a time when the United Nations revealed that more than 13 million Syrians are in need of aid.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.