Russia, Turkey, Iran agree to oversee Syrian ceasefire
Russia, Turkey and Iran, the sponsors of the peace talks between the Syrian government and rebels, have agreed to act as joint monitors for the war-torn country's fragile ceasefire, in a promising step towards ending the violence.
The accord was signed by Ankara and Moscow - the two major powers brokering the negotiations - and Tehran, on behalf of the Syrian government and armed rebel groups, which have not officially endorsed it.
Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian government's representative to the United Nations, immediately hailed the talks a success, but the opposition said it had major reservations.
The 14-member rebel delegation objected to the inclusion of Iran, which it said could not be a credible monitor as its proxies on the ground had repeatedly violated the ceasefire.
It singled out Hezbollah, the Tehran-backed Lebanese Shia militia, for carrying out attacks on the Wadi Barada valley outside Damascus, which has been fought over fiercely since the December 30 truce came into force.
"The rebels do not trust Russia. This will be a test to see how much they can control their allies [the regime and Iran]," Asaad Hanna, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, said.
"Moscow presented itself as the moderator, so it must moderate them."
Iran has a great stake in the war, providing the manpower and resources that have helped Bashar al-Assad's government. It has bolstered the regime in order to maintain its influence and secure a supply route through the country for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
It sees the conflict in Syria as part of a broader Sunni-Shia struggle.
For this reason, the opposition does not believe Iran is serious about finding a political solution.
Such a deal seemed difficult to imagine a year ago, when the last peace talks in Geneva collapsed without agreement. It is the first time in the six-year-war that the rebels and the government had sat in the same room as each other. (©Daily Telegraph, London)