The ceasefire in Syria has been extended by 48 hours after the US and Russia determined that the truce was holding, in spite of sporadic violence. The ceasefire took effect on 12 September and was orchestrated by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Kerry and Lavrov spoke over the phone on Wednesday (14 September) and agreed to extend the ceasefire, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner confirmed. "There was agreement that as a whole, despite sporadic reports of violence, the arrangement is holding, and violence is significantly lower in comparison with previous days and weeks," Toner said.
"This re-commitment will initially be for 48 hours, and, provided it holds, the US and Russia will discuss extensions, with the aim of achieving an indefinite extension to lower the violence," Toner added later, according to Reuters.
As part of the agreement, the US and Russia aim to reduce violence for a week straight before they begin coordinating military strikes against the Islamic State (Isis) and Nusra Front, ABC reported. The two countries also hope to get humanitarian aid to the besieged city of Aleppo.
According to Al Jazeera, the UN applauded the "significant drop in violence" on Tuesday (13 September). "Today, calm appears to have prevailed across Hama, latakia, Aleppo city and rural Aleppo and Idlib, with only some allegations of sporadic and geographically isolated incidents," Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, said in a news conference in Geneva.
"Source on the ground, which do matter, including inside Aleppo city, said the situation has dramatically improved with no air strikes," he added. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that no deaths resulting from violence had been reported during the first 48 hours of the ceasefire.
ABC reported that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the US and Russia to do more to guarantee humanitarian aid to besieged areas. "It's crucially important [that] the necessary security arrangements should be given so that they can be allowed to cross the lines," he said.
The secretary-general added: "I have been urging the Russian Government to make sure that they exercise influence on the Syrian Government, and also the American side to make sure that Syrian armed groups, they also fully cooperate."
Toner also noted that Moscow needed to use its influence over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. "We haven't seen the humanitarian access yet so we're still continuing to assess this, talking to the Russians," he said. 'We're pressuring them to pressure the Assad regime."
The UN revealed that two aid convoys, consisting of about 20 trucks transporting mostly food and flour heading towards Aleppo, has been held up since crossing the Turkish border, Reuters reported. Mistura said the UN was waiting for Damascus to issue letters authorising the aid deliveries.