Syrian army declares ceasefire in Deraa

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces on Saturday announced a 48-hour ceasefire in the southern city of Deraa as mediators attempt a new round of peace talks, Reuters reported.

The announcement came on the same day as the United Nations said it wanted to start a fresh round of peace talks between Syrian factions on July 10 in Geneva, and Russian Federation said it hoped to hold talks in Kazakhstan's capital Astana on July 4-5.

The July negotiations, to be held in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, are expected to finalise details of so-called safe zones to be set up in Syria.

This comes as the United Nations special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistrua, announced that the seventh round of Geneva talks will take place on July 9.

The United States on Saturday welcomed a 48-hour cease-fire in southern Syria and called on the Syrian government to honor its commitments during that period, reported Reuters.

But the government has touted the deals as the best way to end the six-year war, which has killed more than 320,000 people since it began in March 2011.

State Minister for Media Affairs and Government Spokesman Muhammad al-Momani said the Kingdom supports all efforts and initiatives designed at brining about a comprehensive ceasefire on all Syrian territory. Since May, violence levels have vastly reduced in some of those proposed de-escalation areas, but fighting has continued on major frontline areas including in Deraa city.

The Syrian army and Iran-backed militia forces have escalated attacks against a rebel-held part of Deraa city in recent weeks, in a possible prelude to a large-scale campaign to wrest full control of the city.

Syrian military officials announced a temporary halt to fighting in a southwestern city just hours after resuming artillery attacks on the city.

The independent London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the same day that the cease-fire seemed to be holding.

The cessation of battles went into effect as of 12:00 p.m. (1000 GMT) Saturday, said SANA.

Vanessa Coleman

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