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MIDEAST >Guarantor powers to draw ‘de-escalation zone’ maps in Syria by June 4

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA

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Russia, Turkey and Iran will form a joint working group on “de-escalation zones” in Syria in two weeks, in order to delineate the lines of the de-escalation areas and security zones, as well as to resolve other operational and technical issues related to the implementation of the deal, according to a memorandum signed by the countries.

The guarantor countries will prepare maps of security zones and de-escalation areas within a month by June 4, according to the document seen by the Hürriyet Daily News. 

The memorandum calls for the creation of “de-escalation zones” in opposition-held territory including “Idlib province and certain parts of the neighboring provinces [Latakia, Hama and Aleppo], certain parts in the north of Homs province, in eastern Ghouta, and certain parts of southern Syria [Deraa and al-Quneitra province].”

Along with the lines of de-escalation areas, security zones will be established to prevent incidents and military confrontations between conflicting parties. 

“The security zones will include checkpoints to ensure unhindered movement of unarmed civilians and delivery of humanitarian assistance as well as to facilitate economic activities, and observation posts to ensure compliance with the provisions of the ceasefire regime,” read the memorandum, adding that third parties may be deployed, if necessary, with the consensus of guarantors. 

“Creation of the de-escalation areas and security zones is a temporary measure, the duration of which will initially be six months and will be automatically extended on the basis of consensus of the guarantors,” read the document. 

The deal provides for a cease-fire, a ban on all overflights, rapid deliveries of humanitarian aid to the designated areas, a restoration of basic infrastructure facilities - starting with water supply and electricity distribution networks - and the safe and voluntarily return of refugees.

A Russian diplomat emphasized that safe zones established in Syria under a deal reached by Russia, Turkey, and Iran would be closed to warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition.

Aleksandr Lavrentyev Russia’s chief representative at peace talks in Kazakhstan sponsored by the three countries, spoke in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on May 5, a day after the memorandum was signed.

“In the de-escalation zones, aviation operations - especially by the forces of the international coalition - are absolutely not envisaged, with or without prior notification. This question is closed,” Lavrentyev said.

The United States reacted cautiously to the agreement, saying it “supports any effort that can genuinely de-escalate the violence in Syria” but expressing concern about Iran’s role and saying Russia must ensure compliance by the Syrian government.

“Iran’s activities in Syria have only contributed to the violence, not stopped it, and Iran’s unquestioning support for the al-Assad regime has perpetuated the misery of ordinary Syrians,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on May 4.

May/06/2017

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