ABU DHABI, 22nd February 2016 (WAM) — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement announced today by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) Ceasefire Taskforce, on the terms of a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria scheduled to come into effect on Saturday.

Noting the “lengthy and detailed discussions” that preceded the announcement, Mr. Ban, in a statement carried by the UN News Centre, said he believes the agreement, if respected, would constitute a significant step forward in the implementation of Security Council resolution 2254 of 2015, which gave the UN an enhanced role in shepherding the opposing sides to talks for a political transition, endorsing a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections.

“It demonstrates the commitment of the ISSG to exert influence on the warring parties to bring about an immediate reduction in violence as a first step towards a more durable ceasefire,” Mr. Ban stressed, adding that the agreement “further contributes to creating an environment conducive for the resumption of political negotiations.”

“Above all, it is a long-awaited signal of hope to the Syrian people that after five years of conflict there may be an end to their suffering in sight,” Mr. Ban said.

Urging the parties to abide by the terms of the agreement, the Secretary-General said the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria stands ready to support implementation, both on the ground in Damascus and in Geneva. The UN will also count on the cooperation of ISSG members – the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries, including the US and Russia – as all stakeholders jointly set the implementation mechanism in motion.

“Much work now lies ahead to ensure its implementation, and the international community, the ISSG and the Syrian parties must remain steadfast in their resolve,” the UN chief emphasised.