Hezbollah Announces Support for Syrian Ceasefire

A general view shows damaged buildings at al-Kalasa district of Aleppo, Syria, February 2. Reuters

The Lebanese Hezbollah movement strongly supports the Syrian ceasefire agreed on in Kazakhstan and any truce that could lead to a political solution, its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday.

Moscow and Ankara brokered a shaky ceasefire in December between the Syrian government and rebel groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. The agreement led to indirect talks last month in the Kazakh capital of Astana, where Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to monitor the fragile truce.

Several senior Hezbollah commanders and hundreds of fighters have died in Syria, where the Shi'ite Iranian-backed group is fighting in support of Assad.

"Hezbollah strongly supports, not just the Astana ceasefire, any ceasefire agreed upon in Syria," Nasrallah said, in order "to prevent bloodshed and pave the way for political solutions."

Nasrallah said the battle in Aleppo city had changed the path of the Syrian conflict, now in its sixth year.

Syrian government forces, helped by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militia, drove rebel groups out of east Aleppo in December, in Assad's most important gain of the war.

"For six years, Syria faced the risk of the collapse of the state," Nasrallah said in a televised speech. "This danger has been mostly overcome."

Aleppo kickstarted the Astana negotiations, "opened the door to a ceasefire...and to political talks in Geneva", he said.

The next round of United Nations-sponsored talks on the Syrian conflict, now in its sixth year, have been scheduled for Feb. 20 in Geneva.

Meanwhile, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said government and rebel delegates have been invited to attend meetings in Astana on Feb. 15-16.

The full recapture of Aleppo also prompted a series of "local reconciliations in several areas in Syria," Nasrallah added, expressing full support for such agreements.

The Syrian government has been steadily suppressing armed opposition around the capital, through sieges, army offensives, and local deals it describes as reconciliations or settlements. Rebel groups and opponents of Assad have assailed the deals as forcible displacement.

Nasrallah also urged the Lebanese government to work with the Syrian state over the refugee crisis, and called for cooperation toward repatriating Syrian refugees.

At least 1 million people fleeing neighboring Syria have poured into Lebanon since the start of the conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people.