Kremlin announces draw down of its 5-month military campaign
Russia's announcement that it will pull the majority of its armed forces out of Syria is being met with cautious optimism from several quarters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin communicated the decision, some five months after he ordered the launch of a military operation that shored up his ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But, questions remain over the practical implications, including whether Moscow will halt airstrikes. At the UN the announcement is being put down to joint efforts by Washington and Moscow.
UN Security Council President, Permanent Representative of Angola, Ambassador Ismael Abraao Gaspar Martins: "This has been made possible thanks to the good cooperation now between the US and Russia. And the fact that this has been, this has made possible first the ceasefire, which is in place, which is holding, which has been made possible the launch of the negotiations which is a fact."
The launch of talks between the Syrian government and its adversaries is being hailed as a major step forward in resolving the civil war in the Middle Eastern state.
The negotiations, backed by the US and Russia, are being brokered by the UN. Here too, the Syrian opposition is sounding a positive note on Russia's withdrawal plans.
HNC Spokesman, Salim Al-Muslat: "You know, whatever Russia decides, this of course will affect the regime. Hopefully we will see this on the ground, that Russians are not in Syria anymore. We want the Russian people to be friends in Syria and not partners in killing Syrians. It will be, it will be important if this decision is taken, it will be more important if Putin decides to really stand beside the Syrian people, not beside the dictator."
The conflict in Syria has been raging for five years. The UN's special envoy to the country says if peace talks fail, the only ‘Plan B' is a return to full-scale war.