Temporary Ceasefire May Be On The Way In Syria

Syria's government has indicated it may accept a UN-Arab League proposal for a four-day ceasefire during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha. The United States is cautiously welcoming the news.

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The United States is cautiously welcoming news that there could be soon be a temporary ceasefire in Syria. The Syrian government is expected to announce a truce for a three-day Muslim holiday that begins Friday. The hope, of course, is that a period of calm will lead to some sort of political transition in Syria, but few expect it.

As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, the modest ceasefire plan shows the real limits of diplomacy when it comes to ending this bitter conflict.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The ceasefire is being pushed by the joint U.N. and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who addressed via video conference the U.N. Security Council in New York. The current council president, Guatemala's Ambassador to the U.N., Gert Rosenthal, came out of the meeting acknowledging that there's no one in Syria to monitor a truce.

GERT ROSENTHAL: This is a voluntary ceasefire, which Mr. Brahimi is promoting. The parties would be expected to comply with their commitments.

KELEMEN: He read out a Security Council statement endorsing the ceasefire for the Eid al-Adha holiday and calling on Syria to allow aid groups to reach those in need.

Russia's Ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, says his country has received indications that Syria is ready to accept Brahimi's plan, though he expressed doubts about rebel forces. Churkin says the international community will watch all sides closely.

VITALY CHURKIN: It's no surprise you might hear some opposition groups express negative views about the proposals of Mr. Brahimi. As you know, many of them have been adamantly refusing to switch from the military track to the political track. So this is a challenge.

KELEMEN: Russia has so far blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have pressured Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the violence. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she's now hoping that if there are a few days of calm, all sides can pick up on the political transition plan that she, Russia's foreign minister, and other diplomats endorsed in Geneva earlier this year.

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: We'd like to see the violence come to an end. There's no doubt about this. And we'd like to see a political transition take hold and begin. We've been calling for that for more than a year.

KELEMEN: She says there should be consequences if there is no transition or if the truce doesn't hold. Clinton is also raising concerns that the conflict in Syria is spilling over borders. She condemned the weekend attack in Lebanon that killed an anti-Syrian intelligence chief, and says she hopes the Lebanese people will support their president as he tries to reshape the government and find those responsible.

CLINTON: The Lebanese people deserve so much better. They deserve to live in peace and they deserve to have a government that reflects their aspirations, not acts as proxies and agents for outside forces.

KELEMEN: The U.S. doesn't want a political vacuum in Lebanon, she says, that Syria or others could fill.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

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