The media is watching closely as a truce came into effect in Syria early this morning, with both Assad-loyal forces and the Free Syrian Army agreeing to a ceasefire brokered by UN mediator Kofi Annan. Sky News reports widespread international scepticism that the agreement will hold, and the BBC notes comments from US officials that the Syrian government’s position has “little, if any, credibility”. Ahead of P5+1 talks with Iran over the weekend, the Financial Times reports that Iran’s chief negotiator Saed Jalili has said that he would produce “new initiatives” to try and break the deadlock. In the meantime, Iran is trying to soften the blow of sanctions on its oil industry by offering discounts to Asian customers. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iranian oil production is at a 10-year low. The BBC reports that ultra-conservative cleric Hazem Abu Ismail will be allowed to stand as the Salafist party candidate in next month’s presidential elections in Egypt, after allegations that his mother is an American citizen were disproved.
The Syrian ceasefire leads in the Israeli press this morning, with Israel Radio news carrying comments by White House press secretary Jay Carney that the US “will judge Assad on his actions, not his statements”. Haaretz carries comments from Carney on Iran on “the absolute need for the Iranians …to forsake their nuclear weapons ambitions”. The Jerusalem Post reports the Quartet yesterday called on Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from unilateral acts “which cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations, the only way to a just and durable solution to the conflict.” Despite demands by Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, the statement did not specifically describe settlement construction as the reason for the lack of talks. Maariv reports that prime minister Netanyahu is expected to offer direct talks with Palestinian leader Abu Mazen when he meets prime minister Salam Fayyad early next week. According to Yediot Ahronot, Netanyahu is expected to respond to a Palestinian letter which will outline their conditions for the resumption of talks with a letter of his own. However, the demand for early recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, which has been a key demand of the Netanyahu administration, is not expected to appear as an Israeli precondition.