Statement by John Kirby, Spokesperson: Advancing a Cessation of Hostilities in Syria (February 23)

Following yesterday’s joint statement announcing the terms for a cessation of hostilities in Syria, we continue to work through the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to build on recent steps, foster an environment to resume negotiations, and work towards the larger goal of ending this conflict through a political transition, in accordance with the Geneva Communique of 2012.

We understand that Riyad Hijab and the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) – the body formed to represent the Syrian opposition in the political process – are meeting in Riyadh and considering the terms of the Cessation of Hostilities.  Naturally, we urge the maximum number of armed opposition factions to express their support and readiness to participate in the cessation.  We believe this arrangement is an important opportunity to stop the violence, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and help provide the space necessary for the political process to continue.

As we continue to coordinate with the UN, ISSG members, and the opposition to implement the work of the Ceasefire Task Force, we will also work through the Humanitarian Task Force to ensure immediate, unimpeded, and sustained humanitarian access for besieged and hard-to-reach areas, particularly those identified by the ISSG in its February 11 statement.

Thus far, aid agencies have reached five of the besieged areas we prioritized with life-saving humanitarian assistance and are currently moving into a sixth location.  Humanitarian assistance to these besieged areas and to all Syrian communities must be sustained, supported by the international community, and not used by the regime as a bargaining chip.  More deliveries are planned in the coming days, and it is critical that humanitarian access is full and unimpeded throughout the country.