al-hassakeh.jpg
Photograph: Google maps

Syrian Kurdish forces and militias loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday reached a ceasefire deal after more than a week of heavy clashes in al-Hassakeh that claimed dozens of lives.

The deal lets the Kurds keep positions gained in the fighting around the city in northern Syria and comes following days of negotiations between the sides brokered by Russia at its airbase in western Syria, according to officials.

Moscow is a key foreign backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but at times also has courted the Kurds.

Heavy clashes in the city over the last week included Syrian government airstrikes against Kurdish positions for the first time in the history of the civil war, earning it a sharp warning from Washington.

The United Nations said on Tuesday that it was "extremely concerned" that recent fighting has displaced 65,000 people from al-Hassakeh to suburban neighbourhoods and surrounding villages.

"Given the scale and pace of displacement, not all needs can be met yet," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, urging unhindered access to those in need.

Firat, a pro-Kurdish news agency, said the ceasefire was the result of an intervention of local tribal leaders and "some countries," without specifying.

The Kurdish forces in northern Syria have been the main ally on the ground of the United States in its war against the Islamic State extremist group. The Kurds seized Minbij city from the group this month and continue to advance.

According to a Syrian government source familiar with the negotiations, the Kurds had asked for Damascus to recognize areas in northern Syria where they have declared autonomous zones, but this was rejected.

The Syrian opposition and the government are both opposed to Kurdish autonomy, fearing a division of the country.

Kurds, a minority group in the mostly Arab nation, have long complained of systemic discrimination in Syria and are demanding a more federalized state, along the lines of their own autonomous zones, as part of the solution to the civil war.

Latest news

Plane crashes at airport in Melbourne

A five-passenger charter plane has crashed into a building next to Essendon Airport in Melbourne, with witnesses reporting explosions, fire and black smoke, police said Tuesday.

Air France pilots give green light to lower cost subsidiary

Members of Air France's main pilots union on Monday voted to accept the creation of a new lower cost subsidiary that the flag carrier hopes will help it compete on long-haul routes.

US Army General McMaster tapped as Trump's national security advisor

Army Lieutenant General HR McMaster will be the new White House national security advisor, US President Donald Trump told reporters Monday.

Greece's creditors want sweeping reforms before next bailout payment

Greece must make sweeping reforms to its labour market, pension system and collective bargaining agreements in order to receive its next vital bailout payment, the country's European creditors said Monday.

President wants to recall "politically appointed ambassadors", can't do it without gov't

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said that many politically appointed Croatian ambassadors were not carrying out state policies but that she could not replace them without the government to appoint career diplomats who would fight for Croatia's interests.

Izetbegovic hopes ICJ will confirm Serbia's responsibility for genocide

The Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic, on Monday rejected criticism stirred up by the announcement that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be requested to review its judgement made after Bosnia sued Serbia for genocide.

British lawmakers locked in heated debate over Trump's state visit

Allowing US President Donald Trump to visit Britain would be akin to "pimping out the Queen," one British lawmaker said Monday during a heated debate in British parliament over two petitions concerning the US leader's future state visit.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's sharp-tongued ambassador to the UN, dies

Russia's long-time ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died in New York on Monday, following a career that spanned four decades and saw Russia emerge from the Soviet Union and experience many turbulent events in its relations with the West.

French police raid National Front over European Parliament payments

France's far-right National Front Monday said that investigators had searched its offices in relation to allegations that it misused European Parliament funds.

Unhappy Presidents' Day: Trump still manoeuvring after Sweden comment

Donald Trump used his first Presidents' Day in office to continue trying to talk his way out of comments implying a terrorist attack in Sweden that never happened.

Croatia supports Kosovo's territorial integrity - Grabar-Kitarovic

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Monday expressed the support to Kosovo's territorial integrity and Euro-Atlantic aspirations during her talks with the visiting Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj.

Petrov rules out early parliamentary election

Parliament Speaker and Bridge party leader Bozo Petrov on Monday dismissed speculation about a reshuffle of the parliamentary majority, saying an early election was likelier, but that right now he did not see "such a scenario."