Safe Zones in Syria

Safe Zones in Syria

Russia's representative at the Syria talks says the "de-escalation zones" will be closed to military aircraft from the USA -led coalition.

The agreement for safe zones in Syria will come into force on Friday at 21:00 GMT, the Russian Defense Ministry announced.

Speaking on the same, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the issue would have to be taken up in separate talks.

The zones appear meant to halt conflict in specific areas between Syrian government forces and rebels, and would potentially be policed by foreign troops.

The talks in Astana serve as a real opportunity to reduce the escalation of the conflict in Syria, according to the Special Envoy. Furthermore, the agreement does not yet contain any details about how the zones will be enforced.

The United States gave an extremely cautious welcome to the deal, citing concerns over Iran's role as a guarantor, even as it expressed hope that the agreement could set the stage for a settlement.

The safety zone initiative is the latest attempt by Moscow to forge an end to the six-year conflict after its military might turned the tide of the conflict in favour of Assad.

"It will be crucial to see this agreement actually improve the lives of Syrians", UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

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He urged the Syrian government and other countries involved in the peace negotiations to be vigilant in order to prevent a situation that could be an opportunity for terrorist groups. The United Nations also welcomed the plan.

The Russian president claims he can enable the ceasefire brokered in Astana some weeks ago, which now is an abject failure, by creating no-fly zones with the Russian, Turkish, Iranian and U.S. militaries protecting safe zones on the ground. The four zones include areas in the provinces of Idlib and Homs, the eastern Ghouta suburbs outside Damascus, and an area in the south of the country.

The tentative agreement is no guarantor of relief for Syrians; government forces have previously stopped aid from reaching civilians during a ceasefire, and most of the country's medical infrastructure is destroyed or vastly diminished.

Also, prospects for the success of the deal - agreed on by Russia, Turkey and Iran - are undermined by the failure of Syrian rebel groups who oppose President Bashar Assad to sign on to it.

They accuse it of fuelling the sectarian nature of the conflict that has killed some 400,000 people and displaced half the country's population.

Osama Abo Zayd, a spokesman for the Syrian military factions in Astana said the zones raise "a number of questions", adding that Moscow still has no answers on how to deal with any violations from its ally Damascus or from Iran, which has a number of fighters on the ground in Syria on the government's side.

In addition to on Thursday's agreement, de Mistura said that the three guarantor countries, plus Jordan and United States, have been discussing humanitarian demining in Syria and the issue of detainees, missing people and abductees.

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