News Rounds: Waiting to see if Syria ceasefire agreement will translate into peace

Aftermath of fighting in Aleppo, Syria. Creative Commons

Syrian ceasefire to begin today. A cease-fire arranged by Russia, Turkey and Iran is intended to take effect across much of Syria from midnight Thursday in a deal that some opposition leaders hailed as a rare chance to tamp down violence in the country’s bloody war. Some say the agreement could greatly reduce Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s power and eventually force him out of office. The ceasefire deal – notably achieved without US involvement – excluded “terrorist organizations” including the Islamic State and the country’s al-Qaeda affiliate, now an influential component of what remains of Syria’s armed opposition. The caveat suggested that the fighting could continue in the northwestern province of Idlib, now the rebels’ final bastion. (WaPo)

Conditions still murky for peace in Syria. A Syrian opinion writer says: “Russian efforts to present some level of optimism about this latest agreement notwithstanding, the conditions necessary for peace to take hold in Syria are still absent.” (Gulf News)

The UN still plans to investigate allegations of war crimes committed in this conflict. Russia, Syria, Iran and China have opposed such an investigation. (Deutsche Welle)

Top Stories

As ISIS wanes, al-Qaida regroups. When three al-Qaida veterans were killed in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan in October, it barely created a ripple. So dominant has Isis become in the realm of jihadist lore, that you could be forgiven for thinking that its precursor has been relegated to a mere footnote. You’d be wrong. (Guardian)

Argentina to re-open probe of former president’s alleged role in bombing cover-up. An Argentine appeals court will order the re-opening of a probe of accusations that former President Christina Fernandez covered up Iran’s role in the bombing of a Jewish center in 1994, state news agency Telam said on Thursday. (Reuters)

Record number of migrants leave Germany voluntarily. Some 55,000 migrants chose to leave Germany this year – more than twice the number deported. Most of the migrants went back to the Western Balkans. Albanians formed the largest group at 15,000 with about 5,000 each from Serbia, Iraq and Kosovo. (BBC)

Boko Haram leader, in video, says his group remains viable. Boko Haram’s elusive leader Abubakar Shekau appeared in a new video on Thursday to dispute a claim that the jihadist group had been routed from its Sambisa Forest stronghold. (AFP)

In India, Sikhs want access to files on 1984 Golden Temple massacre. Secret government files said to hold details of British involvement in an assault on Sikhism’s holiest shrine that killed hundreds of people should be released to the public, campaigners have urged (Guardian)

Germany grapples with its African genocide. A century after losing its colonial possessions in Africa, Germany and its former colony, Namibia, are now engaged in intense negotiations to put an end to one of the ugliest chapters of Europe’s past in Africa. (NYTimes)

Egypt eases up on Gaza. For most of the past decade, Egypt has been a quiet partner with Israel in a blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip that has stifled the economy and largely blocked its 2 million people from moving in and out of the territory. Now, there are signs Egypt is easing the pressure in a step to repair its shattered ties with the Islamic militant group. (AP)

Burger King and Tim Hortons to cut use of antibiotics in chickens. Because of the threat of drug-resistance, the food chain firm says it will phase out use of antibiotic drugs in its chickens. (Guardian)

Opinion/Blogs

A Zika vaccine but for whom? More than a dozen companies and government institutions are working to unlock the secrets of the virus, and a vaccine could be available as early as 2018.But available to whom? If history is any guide, impoverished communities in Africa are likely to be the last in line. (NYTimes)

In Turkey, journalists critical of the state are accused of terrorism. The prosecution of writers and journalists charged with terrorism and separatism for their association with a newspaper raises serious concerns for freedom of expression in Turkey. (Human Rights Watch)

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