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DAMASCUS, Syria – The United Nations on Saturday welcomed the agreement struck between the United States and Russia for a cease-fire in southwest Syria, saying it would support upcoming peace talks.
The U.N.'s deputy special envoy to Syria, Ramzy Ramzy, said he hopes the agreement announced a day earlier in Hamburg, Germany will lead to similar arrangements elsewhere in Syria to reduce the violence.
"The UN is always seeking to reduce tension and escalation in fighting and I think this is a step in the right direction," he told reporters in Damascus. "All this is obviously support for the political process."
The cease-fire goes into effect Sunday at noon, Damascus time, with no end date, according to U.S. officials and the Jordanian government, which is also involved in the deal. Russian officials said Russian military police would monitor the new truce, but U.S. officials say the details are still under discussion.
Earlier in the week, Syria's military said it was halting combat operations in the southern provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida for four days, in advance of a new round of Russian-sponsored talks in Kazakhstan. The Syrian government extended the unilateral cease-fire, which is now set to expire Saturday.
Syrian opposition activists reported low-level violence in Daraa on Saturday, following weeks of intense fighting in the divided province. Nabaa media and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a woman was killed when government helicopters dropped barrel bombs on a village in northeastern Daraa. The Observatory said a total of 16 such bombs were dropped in the area, wounding several.
Previous cease-fires in Syria have collapsed or failed to reduce violence for long, and it was unclear whether the latest deal would fare any better.
The deal is separate from an agreement that Russia, Turkey and Iran struck earlier this year to try to establish "de-escalation zones" in Syria. The U.S., wary of Iran's involvement, stayed away from that effort. Follow-up talks this week in Kazakhstan were unable to produce agreement on finalizing a cease-fire in those zones.
A new round of U.N.-sponsored peace talks is to be held in Geneva on Monday. Those talks, aimed at forming a transitional government and combatting terrorism, have made little progress since they resumed earlier this year.