Sporadic fighting mars second day of Syria cease-fire

Parts of Syria saw continued fighting Saturday, on the second day of a nationwide cease-fire intended to pave the way for peace talks between the government and the opposition in the new year.

Activists reported pro-government forces were pressing on several fronts against two strategically-located opposition pockets around the capital, Damascus, while Russia’s military deployment to Syria reported twelve cease-fire violations it blamed on rebels Friday. Russia is a key ally of the Syrian government.

Nevertheless, the Russian and Turkish brokered truce held for the most part on a day marked by rain and overcast skies, preserving the possibility for peace talks in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana in the second half of January.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT) to vote on a resolution to endorse the cease-fire and roadmap to peace beginning with a transitional government for the country.

The resolution also calls for the “rapid, safe and unhindered” access to deliver humanitarian aid throughout the country.

The developments signal the possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough after nearly six years of conflict that has drawn in world powers, displaced half the Syrian population, and killed more than 400,000 people. The parties have defied previous peace initiatives.

It follows months of talks between Ankara and Moscow that culminated in a cease-fire agreement that went into effect Thursday at midnight.

Moscow along with Iran provides crucial military support to Syrian President Bashar Assad,…

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