Russia, Turkey agree to support safe-zones in Syria

In a significant shift, Russian President Vladimir Putin has come out of recent talks with Turkey's President Erdogan and US President Trump also endorsing the idea of "safe zones" being established in northern Syria, envisioning the areas being created to provide buffers between rival forces and enhance the ongoing ceasefire.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, May 3, 2017.

To advance his proposal, President Trump will send a senior USA official to an upcoming round of peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana this week.

The United States leads an global coalition that is conducting air strikes and other operations against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey and Russian Federation attach great importance to "strengthening" a cease-fire in Syria and will continue to work together to try and end the conflict.

On the sidelines of the event, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, who is heading the Iranian delegation, sat down for talks with the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, over the latest developments in Syria. The White House said the two discussed setting up safe zones in the country.

The rebels demanded a halt to the government's bombardment of opposition zones in Syria.

The statement was carried by the state-run SANA news agency late on Wednesday.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States has "reason to be cautious" about the chances for success of the deal, though it appreciates the efforts by Russian Federation and Turkey to help lower violence in Syria.

"The recovery process in Russian-Turkish ties is complete", Putin said during a joint press conference held by the two leaders.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said all of Idlib province, parts of Aleppo, Latakia and Homs were all included in the zones.

They met on Wednesday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, their first meeting since a deadly 4 April chemical attack on the Syrian city of Khan Sheikhoun.

Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for the USA -led coalition in Iraq and Syria, said the Americans were only deployed "because we had heard of reports of skirmishes between Turkish forces and our partner forces around the border".

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a auto bomb went off in the town of Azaz, close to the offices of the Syrian interim government, which represents the opposition in rebel-held areas, killing at least five people and wounding others.

Their body language suggested tensions: their facial expressions as they spoke to reporters were stern, and the two leaders barely looked at each other.

"Iran is a country that is killing the Syrian people and the killer can not be the rescuer", said Abu Osama Golani, an opposition commander who attended the Astana gathering.

  • Leroy Wright