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Turkey and Russia: Syrian cease-fire will exclude terrorist groups

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a telephone conversation on Thursday that a cease-fire between the regime and opposition groups in Syria would not extend to “terrorist groups” including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Kremlin said.

“I thank my dear friend Mr. Putin and all the others who lent support to the cease-fire process,” said President Erdoğan during a press conference with Kosovar President Hashim Thaci in Ankara.

Underlining that the cease-fire would not include groups which are listed as terrorists by the United Nations, Erdoğan said that “Turkey will continue to fight decisively against Daesh [ISIL] and others until completely securing the lives of its citizens.”

“No group that is listed as a terrorist organization can be part of a solution in Syria,” said Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Thursday.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said in a written statement on Thursday that the cease-fire would go into effect at 00:00 on Dec. 30 and that Russia and Turkey would be the guarantors of the process.

According to a Reuters report, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said earlier on Thursday that any armed groups in Syria that did not observe the truce would be regarded as “terrorists.”

“The agreement aims to extend the Aleppo cease-fire to the rest of the Syria, to provide a nonstop humanitarian reach and the revival of the political process,” said İbrahim Kalın, a spokesman for President Erdoğan, on Thursday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also had a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Thursday. According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, the ministers evaluated the current situation in Syria and exchanged views on future steps.

“The cease-fire agreement that was reached at 13:00 includes all of Syria and all armed groups,” said Osama Abu Zaid, speaking to the media in Ankara on Thursday on behalf of all armed groups that are part of the cease-fire agreement.

The United States on Thursday lauded the cease-fire, calling it “a positive development,” with State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner saying: “Any effort that stops the violence, saves lives and creates the conditions for renewed and productive political negotiations would be welcome. … The international community hopes this cease-fire will hold so a Syrian-led transition toward a more representative, united and peaceful government can begin.”

Speaking earlier to the pro-government A Haber news outlet, Çavuşoğlu stated that all foreign fighter groups in Syria including the Iranian-backed Hezbollah would have to leave the country once the cease-fire is implemented.

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