The Latest: Syrian opposition group welcomes truce

FILE -- In this Feb. 24, 2016 file photo, a Syrian shopkeeper waits for customers next to paintings of of President Bashar Assad, and Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, center, at the Souk Tawil market in Damascus, Syria. Turkey said Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016, that Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group, which has sent thousands of fighters to support President Bashar Assad, should withdraw from Syria. In an interview with Turkey's A Haber news channel, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said Turkey and Russia are close to reaching an agreement on a nationwide Syrian cease-fire that would come into effect by the end of the year. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):

2:30 p.m.

A main Syrian opposition group says it supports a nationwide cease-fire set to go into effect at midnight and that moderate rebel factions will abide by it, but defend themselves if attacked.

Ahmad Ramadan of the Syrian National Coalition said the truce reached Thursday includes a halt to airstrikes and shelling.

Ramadan said in text messages sent to The Associated Press that members of the Free Syrian Army, a loose alliance of several moderate rebel factions, will abide by the truce but retaliate to violations by government and allied forces.

The Syrian army said the truce does not include al-Qaida’s branch in Syria and the Islamic State group, two of the most powerful armed factions.

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2:10 p.m.

Turkey has welcomed a Syrian cease-fire set to come into effect at midnight.

The Foreign Ministry says groups regarded as terror organizations by the U.N. Security Council will be excluded from the cease-fire, in which Turkey and Russia will act as guarantors.

It was apparently referring to the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-linked Fatah al-Sham Front.

It says the government and the opposition have agreed to halt attacks, including aerial attacks, and not to expand territories under their control in a way that would be detrimental to each other.

Turkey and Russia would closely follow the situation on the ground to ensure the cease-fire holds. The statement calls on all sides wielding influence on the warring parties to provide the necessary support to halt hostilities.

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2 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to scale down its presence in Syria, where it has provided crucial support to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Putin spoke Thursday, as a Syrian cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey was set to begin at midnight.

Putin didn’t say how many troops and weapons will be withdrawn. He said Russia will continue “fighting international terrorism in Syria” and supporting Assad’s military.

Putin also said that the Russian military will maintain its presence at both an air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia and the naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus.

The cease-fire is to be followed by renewed peace negotiations to end the nearly six-year conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Egypt will be invited to join the process, and that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan could eventually join as well.

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