De-escalation zones deal goes into effect in Syria

Candice Alexander
May 7, 2017

The U.S. also expressed doubts, as State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday that the U.S. has “concerns” about the accord, “including the involvement of Iran as a so-called “guarantor, ” and said Russian Federation should do more to stop violence.

Several forces have carried out air strikes within Syria, including Russian Federation and a US-led coalition battling Daesh.

That suggests that the USA military would no longer be allowed to fly over a number of critical areas where it already conducts operations and that it would be barred from all of the most important areas contested by the government and rebels not affiliated with the Islamic State.

Under the agreement, the Syrian air force is prohibited from operating within these four de-escalation zones.

The main Syrian opposition umbrella group criticized a Russian proposal to establish "de-escalation zones" in Syria as vague and illegitimate and said it rejected the role of Iran as guarantor in any deal.

He added that, "by mutual agreement of the guarantor countries, the forces of other parties can be enlisted". He did not elaborate on which those countries might be.

The zones are drawn up to serve as areas where refugees and displaced civilians can live in peace without being killed or seriously injured, and medical aid and humanitarian assistance will be permitted to enter all four of the de-escalation zones without obstruction from any of the warring sides.

The agreement signed on Thursday by Iran, Russia and Turkey in the Kazakh capital, Astana, is the latest in a series of ceasefire proposals aimed at ending Syria's war, now in its seventh year.

Separately, a Syrian monitoring group and an official with a US -backed force said on Thursday that Kurdish-led fighters have captured all parts of a Tabqa, a northern town in Syria that was held by ISIS.

The plan, details of which will still be worked out over the next several weeks, went into effect at midnight Friday.

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Moscow's envoy said this means coalition air power can now only focus on "Daesh targets that are located in the area of Raqa, some populated areas in the region of the Euphrates, Deir Ezzor and further on to the territory of Iraq".

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian General Staff, speaks to the media in the Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 5, 2017.

The conflict is multi-sided, with Syria's ruling regime, which is widely accused of war crimes, battling a spectrum of belligerents ranging from the so-called moderate opposition to UN-designated terrorist groups, such as Islamic State.

The deal was signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey on Thursday, said the report.

He says a cease-fire is unsustainable in the presence of the Iranian-backed militias in Syria, accusing them of also forcefully displacing people to replace them with a loyal population.

Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Ahmet Uzumcu told The Associated Press on Friday that the team is already working and he was due to speak to its leader later in the day. Bashar al-Assad is expected to go along with the wishes of Russian Federation and Iran.

In turn, head of the Russian delegation to Astana meeting Alexander Lavrentyev told reporters that signing the memorandum on reduction-of-tension zones in Syria opens the door for allowing the preservation of Syria's territorial integrity and achieving the political settlement.

The agreement, the latest endeavor to reduce violence in the conflict-ridden Arab country, calls for delineating zones where frontlines between the Syrian government forces and militants would be frozen and fighting halted.

Russian officials on Friday warned US military officials they can no longer fly aircraft over newly established safe zones in Syria.

Other reports by VgToday

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