Deal struck on plan for safe zones in Syria

A displaced Syrian, who fled the countryside surrounding the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's stronghold of Raqqa, at a temporary camp in the village of Ain Issa on Tuesday. Moscow has been touting a plan to create safe zones in Syria aimed at "furt
A displaced Syrian, who fled the countryside surrounding the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's stronghold of Raqqa, at a temporary camp in the village of Ain Issa on Tuesday. Moscow has been touting a plan to create safe zones in Syria aimed at "further pacification and cessation of hostilities".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Regime allies Russia and Iran, and rebel backer Turkey, agree on plan to halt violence

ASTANA • Syrian regime allies Russia and Iran, and rebel supporter Turkey, yesterday signed a memorandum on a Moscow-backed plan to create safe zones in Syria to bolster a fragile truce.

However, a member of the rebel delegation left the room where the peace talks were being held in the Kazakh capital Astana, shouting against Iran.

The Syrian government and rebel delegations are not signatories.

The Kremlin has been touting a plan to create safe zones in Syria that are aimed at "further pacification and cessation of hostilities".

"Over the past two days, the participants in the Astana talks reviewed the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the cessation of hostilities," Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said of a frail truce brokered by Moscow and Ankara in December.

IN AGREEMENT

Over the past two days, the participants in the Astana talks reviewed the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the cessation of hostilities. As a result, the guarantor countries agreed to sign a memorandum on the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria.

KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTER KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV, on a frail truce brokered by Moscow and Ankara in December.

"As a result, the guarantor countries agreed to sign a memorandum on the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria."

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said the agreement to create safe zones will cover all of Idlib province, as well as parts of Aleppo, Latakia and Homs. It said the deal would ban all use of weapons in those areas.

The aim is to "put an immediate end to the violence" and "provide the conditions for the safe, voluntary return of refugees", as well as the immediate delivery of relief supplies and medical aid, said a copy of the draft document that was seen by Agence France-Presse.

But issues, including which countries could police any safe zones, remain unclear.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that ways to monitor the zones would be an issue for separate talks.

Syrian rebels said earlier yesterday that they had resumed participation in the talks after having suspended their involvement a day earlier over air strikes against civilians.

After talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Mr Putin said the safe zones were meant to lead to "further pacification and cessation of hostilities". He also said the proposed zones would be no-fly areas if fighting on the ground there stopped entirely.

The Kremlin's plan echoes calls by United States President Donald Trump to establish safe zones in Syria.

Mr Putin said on Wednesday that "as far as I could tell", the US leader broadly supported the idea in a phone call they held on Tuesday.

Mr Erdogan said in comments published yesterday that Moscow's plan to set up these zones in Syria would "50 per cent" solve the six-year conflict.

Damascus supports the Russian plan, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's war began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

Mr Abdrakhmanov said the next Syria peace talks would be held in Astana in mid-July.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline 'Deal struck on plan for safe zones in Syria'. Print Edition | Subscribe