A ‘cessation in hostilities’ is short of a clear and concrete ceasefire, and regardless of the agreement, Russian warplanes continue to bomb anti-Assad forces in the country, but the agreement has the potential to be the first major diplomatic breakthrough in the five-year-old conflict. On Friday, world powers in a marathon session agreed to halt the use of force and let aid and supplies reach the affected people, but to use the words of United States negotiator, John Kerry “it is just a piece of paper”.

The effort of world powers to reach a compromise must be appreciated, but it must be said that the compromise is far short of a comprehensive solution. Not only is the continuation of Assad regime an undecided question, pro-Assad forces and Russian forces allowed to continue their offensive for at least another week, the deal itself depends on the willing cooperation of its partners – something that is far from assured considering the past record. Both pro-Assad and anti-Assad groups have been blamed for blocking access to humanitarian aid for strategic benefits, and considering the fact that the Syrian government is close to scoring key victories in the conflict – the chance of parties reneging on their commitments is high.

The Russian and Syrian negotiator fought hard to insert the one week delay clause in the agreement so their eminent victory may be achieved. If the capture of Aleppo takes longer than the week the agreement may just unravel. The pro-Assad group has made it clear that alleviation of humanitarian crisis in Syrian villages is a secondary priority to victory. By being obstinate they have managed to secure a very favourable deal. The Western powers must be berated for capitulating to Syrian demands at the cost of providing immediate and extensive humanitarian aid. A week may be a small scale of time in a five year long conflict, but considering the situation on the ground – where many villages are facing starvation and suffering from an abject shortage of medical supplies - a week of delayed aid may literally be the difference between life and death.

Now the focus must be on ensuring that all parties go through with their commitment at the agreed timetable. If the world powers manage to do that, this deal could be the beginning of a negotiated political solution that can end this devastating war.