Russia, Turkey, Iran Agree on 4 De-escalation Zones in Syria

Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed Thursday to create four de-escalation zones in Syria, Russian and Turkish state media reported, in the latest effort to resolve that country’s six-year conflict.

All three countries are sponsors of the latest round of ceasefire talks underway in Astana, Kazakhstan, and a largely ignored ceasefire that was signed late last year. Russia and Iran are both key backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey supports Syrian opposition forces.

The preliminary agreement, signed in Astana, was put forward by Russia and would create security zones in Idlib province, to the north of the city of Homs, in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, and in the south of Syria, Russian state-run Sputnik news agency reported.

A working group will later decide “boundaries of disarmament, areas of tension and security areas, as well as to address technical issues related to the implementation of the memorandum,” Sputnik said, citing the signed document. The Russian agency said maps demarcating the areas in question would be completed by May 22.

Such zones — also referred to as non-conflict or safe zones — are meant to be areas where civilians can live without being targeted by any party in Syria’s war. However, key issues would involve whether and how the zones would be enforced.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it accepted the Russian proposal to create de-escalation zones, vowing not to shell these areas in compliance with the December ceasefire agreement.

But Osama Abu Zeid, a member of the opposition High Negotiations Committee, told reporters Thursday in Astana that the Syrian armed opposition rejected any agreement that would divide the country.

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SOURCE: CNN, Hamdi Alkhshali, Sarah Sirgany and Laura Smith-Spark