Russia-backed Syrian safe zones plan goes into effect
07 May, 2017, 13:33
Russia, Turkey and Iran will still be permitted to fight terrorist groups within the safe zones, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by dpa.
The zones, which aim to reduce tensions, will be set up in four areas, namely in Idlib province and neighbouring areas - Latakia, Hama and Aleppo - to the north of Homs, East Ghouta and some provinces in southern Syria - Daraa and Quneitra - Russian News Agency TASS reported. The committee said the deal "was concluded without the Syrian people" and "lacks the minimum basics of legitimacy". The checkpoints and observation posts will ensure free movement of unarmed civilians and humanitarian aid and will facilitate economic activities, he said.
Syrian, Russian, Turkish and USA -led coalition aircraft operate in different, sometimes same areas in Syria.
Russian Federation and Iran have been the main military backers of Syria's ruling regime, while Turkey has supported certain rebel groups seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Fighting reportedly eased on Saturday as the zones came into effect - although battles continued on an important frontline near Hama, according to a monitoring group.
But it's unknown how many boots on the ground would be needed to monitor the yet-to-be mapped areas or how and where exactly Russian, Iranian and Turkish troops would patrol.
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"This leaves Tahrir al-Sham with every reason to rally opposition to the Astana deal and to torpedo it through bombings and other provocations", Syria analyst Aron Lund wrote in an article on Friday.
The zones still exist only on paper and the cosponsors have until June 4 to finalise their borders under the terms of the agreement struck at peace talks in Kazakhstan on Thursday. Opposition delegates also said they would not recognise Iran as a guarantor of any ceasefire plan.
The move, welcomed by the United Nations, has been met with scepticism from the United States as the so-called safe-zones will be closed for warplanes of the United States and those of the USA -led coalition. It called on the US and other Arab allied countries, to prevent the implementation of the deal.
The ceasefire will last six months and could be "automatically extended" for another six months, Alexander Lavrentyev said Friday after talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. The area, south of Latamneh, is expected to be part of the deal. The Pentagon has said the de-escalation agreement will not affect its campaign against ISIS. This zone does not include the adjacent, government-besieged area of Qaboun.
Moscow's envoy said this means coalition air power can now only focus on "Islamic State 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". "What deal?" he scoffed.
Many previous ceasefire agreements in Syria have largely failed.
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