The Syrian army has announced a nationwide ceasefire, the AP reports. In a statement carried by state news agency SANA on Thursday, the military command "declares a comprehensive nationwide cessation of hostilities as of midnight." State TV says the ceasefire paves the way for reactivating negotiations to end the conflict and says the ceasefire comes after the "successes achieved by the armed forces," an apparent reference to the capture of rebel-held neighborhoods of Aleppo earlier this month. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Russia and Turkey will guarantee the truce, and he's ordered the Russian military to scale down its presence in Syria, where it has provided crucial support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Turkey supports the opposition.
Putin didn't say how many troops and weapons will be withdrawn and noted Russia will continue "fighting international terrorism in Syria" and supporting Assad's military. Turkey's Foreign Ministry says groups regarded as terror organizations by the UN Security Council will be excluded from the ceasefire, apparently referring to ISIS and the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Front. It says the government and the opposition have agreed to halt attacks, including aerial attacks, and not to expand territories under their control in a way that would be detrimental to each other. Meanwhile, Ahmad Ramadan of the Syrian National Coalition said in text messages to the AP that members of the Free Syrian Army, a loose alliance of several moderate rebel factions, will abide by the truce but retaliate to violations by government and allied forces. The ceasefire is to be followed by renewed peace negotiations to end the nearly six-year conflict. (Read more Syria stories.)