Syria safe zones to come into force

Syria safe zones to come into force

Fighting has eased in parts of Syria where a Russian-led initiative to halt the country's six-year war took effect from midnight, activists say.

But there are also worrisome flaws that could doom the deal to the same fate as its predecessors.

The three countries are expected to police the four safe zones - although an official with Russia's military general staff said on Friday that other countries may eventually have a role to play.

Political and armed opposition groups in Syria have rejected the proposal, saying Russian Federation has been unwilling or unable to get Assad and his Iranian-backed militia allies to respect past cease-fires.

The negotiations in Astana are viewed as complementary to broader United Nations-brokered talks in Geneva on a political settlement, but neither have yielded real progress as of yet.

Russian Federation is a staunch ally of Assad and is conducting airstrikes against targets in the country to help Syrian government forces fight militant groups.

They suggested that USA warplanes could be barred from all of the most important areas contested by the government and rebels that are not affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In answer to a question about the US -led coalition formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State, Lavrentiev did not mince words. It doesn't prevent frictions between Turkish troops and their Syrian allies from clashing or going after the USA -backed Syrian Kurds.

The deal calls for "rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access" in the areas in question, as well as measures to restore infrastructure and allow the "safe and voluntary return" of displaced people and refugees. The deal calls for all aircraft to be banned from flying over the safe zones.

"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. However, key issues would involve whether and how the zones would be enforced.

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The largest of the four de-escalation zones is in northern Syria and includes Idlib province and adjoining districts of Latakia, Aleppo and Hama with a total population of over 1 million, the ministry said. Another is the northern part of Homs province.

Syrian government warplanes could be heard from Eastern Ghouta around midday on Saturday, according to a correspondent in the rebel-held town of Douma.

Previous regions considered for no-fly zones were the border areas with Jordan and Turkey.

Russian Federation said it could be expanded to create more zones.

Reuters quotes opposition delegates to the Kazakhstan talks denouncing the safe zone proposal as an attempt to divide Syria, in addition to their strenuous objections to Iran's participation.

Iran and Turkey agreed to the Russian proposal for de-escalation zones on Thursday. The plan also proposes the deployment of "third-party" monitoring forces.

Another question left unanswered is how the deal would affect US airstrikes targeting al-Qaida's positions in Syria. That chemical attack left more than 80 civilians dead, including many children.

The deal is the latest bid to end more than six years of conflict that have killed over 320,000 people since anti- government protests erupted in March 2011. They also include some of the areas where Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, has skirmished with Kurdish militias that are backed, sometimes with airstrikes, by the United States.

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

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