World

Syria ceasefire in four zones to start Saturday

Syria ceasefire in four zones to start Saturday

Russian Federation proposed the "de-escalation zones", agreed to by Turkish leaders, which acted as a guarantor for a rebel coalition of forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The wide array of rebel groups include some supported by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has activists on the ground across the country, said the government's helicopter gunships dropped at least 10 barrel bombs on the rebel-held Latamneh area and its surroundings in central Syria where fighting was reported between rebels and troops.

Mohammed Rasheed, a spokesman for the Jaish al-Nasr rebel group, said Russian Federation was "merely playing political games" and "making declarations".

"We as guarantors will closely monitor all operations", he said.

Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research at Amnesty International's Beirut office, said: "Countries hosting Syrian refugees must not mistake this proposal for an opportunity to return those seeking refuge on their territories back into Syria".

"These de-escalation zones, as I have seen them on the map, are in Western Syria and not in areas where ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] is active", he said. "And it is not a coincidence that the United States has welcomed the result of the Astana meeting - an agreement to create de-escalation zones", Lavrov said.

The largest de-escalation zone, in northern Syria, includes Idlib province and adjoining districts of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia with a population of over 1 million, the memorandum text said.

Back when Turkey and the USA were both super keen on the idea of safe zones, a big selling point was the imposition of no-fly zones over the areas, to keep the civilians within getting bombed.




The Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee has contested Iran's signing of the agreement, saying it is "an aggressor that should be held accountable for violations against Syrians".

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

Yet troops from the three countries are now expected to secure four safe zones.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said that if implemented the deal will allow for the separation of the opposition from IS fighters and those of the al-Qaida affiliate.

Weaponry and air strikes are to be banned within the zones - while no-fly zones will be introduced in the airspace overhead. 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.

Russian Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi told reporters on May 5 that personnel from Russia, Iran, and Turkey will operate checkpoints and observation posts.

Under the plan, Assad's air force - and presumably Russian, too - would also halt flights over those areas.

The U.S. was represented at the talks in Kazakhstan though Nauert said it was neither a "direct participant" nor a party to the agreement.


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