Russia: Syrian safe zones plan to take effect at midnight

The latest round of Syrian peace talks in Astana is sponsored by opposition supporter Turkey and Syrian government backers Russian Federation and Iran. But the opposition reacted harshly, blasting the deal as lacking legitimacy.

Iran, Turkey and Russian Federation brokered Astana talks on Syria and the first three rounds of the talks were held on January 23-24, February 15-16 and March 14-15.

Russia's special envoy to Syria Aleksandr Lavrentiev said the US led worldwide coalition against ISIS would only be allowed to strike ISIS's capital along with "some populated areas in the area of the Euphrates, Deir al-Zour and further on the Iraqi territory". The not party to the agreement and the Syrian rivals have not signed on to the deal.

Mr Fomin said that there had been no bombing raids by Russian aviation in the four zones since 1 May.

The objective is also to "provide the conditions for the safe, voluntary return of refugees" in addition to the speedy provision of relief supplies and medical aid.

And for the over six-year-old conflict to end, such zones were deemed important to put down the confrontation between the Syrian army and the foreign-backed rebels, who are not considered as terrorist groups by the worldwide community. They will particularly cover the Idlib Governorante, some parts of its neighboring areas in the Latakia, Hama and Aleppo Governorates north of the city of Homs, eastern Ghouta, as well as the Daraa and al-Quneitra Governorates in southern Syria. The area, south of Latamneh, is expected to be part of the deal.

However, she said: "We continue to have concerns about the Astana agreement, including the involvement of Iran as a so-called 'guarantor.' Iran's activities in Syria have only contributed to the violence, not stopped it, and Iran's unquestioning support for the Assad regime has perpetuated the misery of ordinary Syrians".

Russian Federation and Iran have backed Assad during the conflict.

It was not clear how a cease-fire over such a broad and logistically complicated area would be achieved, or whether worldwide observers would be sent to Syria to monitor its implementation.

The idea of armed monitors is a new element — observers deployed in the early years of the Syrian conflict, including United Nations and Arab League observers, were unarmed. The deal says other nations could join as needed.

Then there is the question of who will protect the safe zones. Russian warplanes helped bombard rebel areas like Aleppo into submission.

Speaking at a press conference in the Kazakh capital of Astana, Alexander Lavrentyev said on Thursday that the Syrian government will abide by the agreement unless attacks are carried out by rebel groups in those areas. ISIS is an alternative acronym for the Sunni militant group.

Foreign troops also could be deployed in observer roles. Rebel factions often express particular hatred for the Iranians and could target their forces.

The US appeared uneasy with the deal, with the state department saying Washington welcomed efforts to reduce violence in Syria but did not trust Iran's role in the agreement. But the delay in working out key details like the map could also undermine it.

  • Leroy Wright