USA at odds with Russian Federation over Syria's no-fly zones

Sponsors of the deal hope that safe zones would bring relief for hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians and encourage refugees to return.

Those zones would see a halt to hostilities, including air strikes.

Rebel commander Jamil al-Saleh, in northern Hama, said that almost an hour after the deal went into effect, battles raged with government forces.

It began coming into effect at midnight (2100 GMT Friday), according to Russian Federation, but cosponsors have until June 4 to finalise the zones' borders. The third is around Eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus that the government has failed for years to take.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which monitors the war relying on local sources said that fighting has decreased in Syria since the Russian-backed deal has come into effect.

"We can't imagine Iran playing a role of peace", Abo Zayd said.

Several ceasefires have been agreed since Syria's conflict broke out in March 2011, but they have failed to permanently stem the fighting.

Russian Federation and Iran have been the main military backers of Syria's ruling regime, while Turkey has supported certain rebel groups seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

This initiative is the most serious effort to reduce violence and shore up a ceasefire first declared in December since western states accused Damascus of a chemical attack in early April on rebel-held Idlib province.

The deal aims to establish the zones for six months and are meant to enforce the cessation of all hostilities between government and opposition fighters.

It does not specify that the safe zones take effect immediately, but gives the three guarantor countries two weeks to form working groups to delineate them and then until June 4 to come up with their definitive boundaries.

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.

Wide parts of Syria have enjoyed relative calm despite sporadic clashes after a deal to set up "de-escalation zones" mostly within opposition-controlled areas went into effect, opposition activists and government media outlets said.

According to the report, the Turkish side sent a telegram to the armed rebel factions in Idlib, informing them that Turkish forces will enter the border area in Idlib province, near Turkey. They have always been requested by rebel groups and rejected by the government.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian army.

Captain Jeff Davis of the Pentagon would not say if the USA military would honour the zones and promise not to fly over them.

A war monitoring group said there were no initial reports of casualties. A State Department envoy was at the talks in Kazakhstan where the deal was reached, though the United States was not one of the signers of the agreement.

United States and allied aircraft will be banned from flying over much of Syria as part of a deal struck by Iran, Russia and Turkey to foster a cease-fire in the Syrian war, a senior Russian diplomat said Friday. A new round of talks is expected later this month.

The establishment of safe zones is the latest global attempt to reduce violence amid a six-year civil war that has left more than 400,000 dead, and is the first to envisage armed foreign monitors on the ground in Syria.

Along with Mr. Trump, the presidents of Russian Federation and Turkey have recently supported the idea of creating safe zones in Syria.

  • Leroy Wright