While Syria’s vital signs are starting to fail, there is a shimmer of hope for the war torn country: Today a planned cease-fire could bring most if not all hostilities to a halt. "The coming days will be critical and the world will be watching," US-President Barack Obama said on Thursday. The agreement could be a first step towards ending the chaos and violence in Syria, Obama added. Fighting should cease from Friday at midnight local time.
At a meeting in Munich two weeks ago, the 17-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which includes the United States, Russia and other major powers, agreed to work towards the cessation of hostilities. However, the U.S. and Russia had also agreed that the fight against the extremist Islamic State (IS) and the al-Qaida affiliated Nusra Front would continue with full force.
The Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad, which is highly dependent on Russian military support, is likely to stick to the deal. Almost 100 rebel factions fighting Syrian government forces have also agreed to respect the cessation of hostilities.
The war in Syria is now in its fifth year and more than 250,000 people have been killed, some sources counting more than 400,000 dead. Approximately 13.5 million people have been displaced. As the chart below shows, the country is on the brink. The United Nations will convene a new round of peace talks possibly beginning in March. A first round of talks had been abruptly aborted early on in February.