DAMASCUS, Syria — A precarious calm descended on the Syrian capital for the first time in five years after a cease-fire agreement went into effect Feb. 27 at midnight. The cease-fire crowned a deal brokered by the United States and Russia, opening the way for political negotiations. The calm stood in stark contrast to political tensions between Syria and Russia and the opposition's anger following President Bashar al-Assad's announcement Feb. 22 for parliamentary elections to be held April 13.
Assad's call for elections, coming hours after announcement of the cease-fire agreement, contradicted the agreement's planned phases for a political settlement of the Syrian crisis. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Feb. 24 that Russia will “vigorously” insist that elections take place with the consent of both the opposition and the government after the adoption of a new constitution. “I would like to emphasize that Russia is fully committed to the agreements on the content and stages of the political process of resolving the Syrian crisis in accordance with the decisions of the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) and Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council,” the TASS news agency quoted Zakharova as saying.