Syrian rebels fear Russian safe-zones plan

According to Alexander Lavrentyev, Russian Special Presidential Representative for settling the Syrian crisis and head of the Russian delegation to the Astana talks, these zones will be established for six months, however, this period could be automatically extended for another six months.

Turkey and Iran agreed on Thursday to Russia's proposal for "de-escalation zones" in Syria, a move welcomed by the United Nations but met with skepticism from the United States.

A potential complication to implementing the plan is the crowded airspace over Syria.

Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to a Moscow-proposed deal Thursday to establish the so-called "de-escalation" zones in Syria to try to end the six-year conflict.

Western and Saudi-backed Syrian opposition coalition the High Negotiations Committee criticised the deal, saying it lacked legitimacy and sought to divide the country.

The new deal was penned by Turkey, which backs the opposition, as well as Russian Federation and Iran, who are supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The air force of President Bashar al-Assad, meanwhile, would also halt flights over the four zones.

He said the largest of the four de-escalation zones covers Idlib province, the northeastern part of Latakia province, the eastern areas of Aleppo province and the northern areas of Hama province.

He did not elaborate on who those countries might be.

"The only place where the coalition's aviation can operate is certainly on targets of the Islamic State".

The HNC also said it did not accept Iran as a guarantor of the deal.

He said the Shiite-majority country is fuelling the sectarian nature of the conflict and "Iran can't play the role of a peace maker".

Yet troops from the three countries are now expected to secure four safe zones.

Iranian, Turkish, Syrian and Russian defense ministries and intelligence services cooperated during "working sessions" to bring about a de-escalation of violence, Fomin said.

Both parties also have a consistent history of violating almost all ceasefire's they've been party too throughout the civil war.

The Pentagon said the de-escalation agreement would not affect the US-led air campaign against IS.

Al-Homsi, al-Masalmeh and opposition activist Osama Abu Zeid said government warplanes have not carried out any airstrikes on rebel-held areas since Wednesday, a day before the deal to set up the zones was signed in Kazakhstan.

The plan endorsed by Russia, Turkey and Iran calls for a ban on all overflights, but Lavrentyev spoke in response to a question posed by a Russian news agency about USA -led coalition aircraft.

Around 42,000 opposition fighters now remain on the territory of the four security zones, with the majority of the militants located in Idlib (14,500) and near the Jordanian border (15,000), according to Russian estimates.

  • Salvatore Jensen