Turkey, Russia, Iran back Syria 'de-escalation zones'
Deal aims to establish zones where humanitarian aid can flow, civilians can be secure
By Aliia Raimbekova
Russia, Turkey and Iran signed a deal in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on Thursday to establish “de-escalation zones” in Syria.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said the zones would cover the city of Idlib and certain parts of Latakia, Homs, Aleppo and Hama as well as Damascus, Eastern Ghouta, Daraa and Quneitra.
“We gladly welcome the deal recorded [on Thursday] which aims to stop the use of all types of arms, including air forces, between the conflicting parties in the regions in question,” the ministry statement read.
The deal also aims at ensuring “emergent and continuous humanitarian aid” be sent to the regions concerned, it added.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference earlier in Moscow the “creation of de-escalation zones would be a significant step taken regarding the ending of conflict in Syria”.
According to the accord, checkpoints will ensure the safe flow of humanitarian aid and provide secure passage for civilians. Observation points will monitor the cease-fire in the region.
Fighting against al-Qaeda and Daesh will continue.
Guarantors will continue to make efforts to include groups that are not a party to the cease-fire, it noted.
After two weeks, a joint working group will be set up by the guarantor countries to determine the borders of the zones in question.
Following the agreement, the U.S. said it "supports any effort that can genuinely de-escalate the violence in Syria".
"In light of the failures of past agreements, we have reason to be cautious," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. "We nonetheless hope that this arrangement can contribute to a de-escalation of violence, end the suffering of the Syrian people, and set the stage for a political settlement of the conflict," she added.
Nauert called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces to halt all attacks on civilian and opposition forces, urging Russia to ensure compliance, and called on the Syrian opposition to distance itself from terrorist groups, including Tahrir al-Sham, al-Qaeda's Syrian branch.
The Astana talks, which were first convened in January, ran alongside the UN-backed discussions in Geneva.
Turkey, which backs the Syrian opposition, joined the regime's allies Russia and Iran in sponsoring the negotiations after the assault on the Syrian city of Aleppo in December.
Syria has been locked in civil war since March 2011. According to the UN, around 400,000 people have died in the conflict while half the population has been driven away from their homes.