Saturday, 27 May, 2017

Mattis: US reviewing Syria safe zones but has many questions

Map locates the four Russian-proposed safe zones across Syria 2c x 4 1/2 inches 96.3 mm x 114 Map locates the four Russian-proposed safe zones across Syria 2c x 4 1/2 inches 96.3 mm x 114
Saul Franklin | 15 May, 2017, 18:14

Note that not even the Syrian government was involved. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed.

Under the deal, Russia, Iran and Turkey have until June 4 to agree on the exact boundaries of the four zones, where fighting between rebels and government forces is meant to stop.

The fact that the de-escalation agreement was supported by the United Nations, the United States and Saudi Arabia guaranteed its implementation, the RIA and Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin as saying.

Syria's leading opposition High Negotiations Committee also expressed "concern" about the deal, saying it "lacks safeguards and compliance mechanisms".

However, the deal has offered little detail on the specifics of the enforcement and in an effort to provide assurances, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will meet the U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday in Washington amid western diplomatic concerns about how the ceasefire will be enforced and monitored. "It began coming into effect at midnight (2100 GMT Friday), according to Russian Federation, but co-sponsors have until June 4 to finalise the zones" borders.

The details of the deal itself are unclear, because the signed memorandum has not been published. "We hope for more information before we have to go to a vote on the resolution".

Several ceasefire deals have been agreed since Syria's conflict broke out in March 2011 but they have failed to permanently stem the fighting.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement that Dunford and Gerasimov 'talked about the recent Astana agreement and affirmed their commitment to de-conflicting operations in Syria. It said some maps of the "de-escalation zones" that were released are not accurate and will not be accepted because the armed opposition did not negotiate them. That will include removing mines and other explosive as well as ensuring more permanent intelligence sharing and law enforcement.

The deal to evacuate Barzeh district mirrors similar agreements for opposition-held territory elsewhere, allowing fighters safe passage in exchange for surrender.

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In Syria, it seems that the citizens have little say in what happens within their country.

It's also worth noting that neither the Syrian government nor rebel forces are signatories to the agreement. The plan called for the creation of four different safe zones inside Syria, which would be jointly controlled by the Syrian Arab Army and some rebel groups. Damascus has accepted the de-escalation plan but insists government forces will continue to battle "terrorism".

Rebels have rejected the deal and said they would not recognize Iran as a guarantor of any ceasefire plan.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Copenhagen, he suggested that it's still not yet clear what impact the plan could have on the USA -led fight against Islamic State group militants.

The Pentagon said the de-escalation agreement would not affect the US -led air campaign against IS.

Russian Federation has also been fighting on the regime side, but the Shiite element is most prominent in the rejection of Iranian involvement. Russian Federation and Iran, which support the government, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, may deploy armed forces to secure the four so-called "de-escalation zones", in what would amount to unprecedented coordination between the three countries.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of Russia's General Staff told reporters on Friday that Russian officers planned to discuss the restoration of the agreement with their American counterparts soon.

But it's hard to imagine 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. "All wars eventually come to an end". Other attempts at a cease-fire in Syria have all ended in failure.

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