Syria FM rejects UN monitors for ‘de-escalation’ deal
DAMASCUS - Agence France-PresseSyrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on May 8 his country would reject any United Nations role in monitoring the implementation of four “de-escalation” zones.
“We do not accept a role for the United Nations or international forces to monitor the agreement,” Muallem told reporters in Damascus.
Russia, Iran and Turkey reached a deal last week on four “de-escalation zones” in Syria where the government and opposition will halt hostilities.
The deal says those areas would be bordered by “security zones” with checkpoints and observation posts “ensured by the forces of the guarantors by consensus,” but that “third-party” monitors could also be deployed.
Muallem on May 8 said there could be a role “as the Russian guarantor has said, for military police,” but it was unclear if he was referring to Syrian or foreign units.
The multi-phase plan, signed on May 4 in the Kazakh capital Astana, is one of the more ambitious efforts aimed at ending Syria’s six-year conflict.
It provides for a cease-fire, rapid deliveries of humanitarian aid and the return of refugees after “de-escalation zones” are created across stretches of eight Syrian provinces.
The Syrian government and rebel groups are not signatories to the deal, although Muallem reiterated Damascus’s approval of it.
But, he stressed, “if any violations take place, the Syrian army will be prepared to respond in a decisive manner.”
The agreement covers four main battlegrounds between the government and non-jihadist rebels -- the northwestern province of Idlib, parts of Homs province in the center, the south, and the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.
It does not include territory where clashes are raging against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria’s center, north and east.
ISIL is coming under simultaneous attack by Syrian government troops as well as a U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Muallem said that the SDF’s fight against ISIL was “legitimate”, in the Syrian government’s first sign of approval of those operations.
“In this phase, we believe that what Kurdish citizens in Syria are doing by fighting Daesh is legitimate, in the framework of protecting Syria’s territorial unity and sovereignty,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
Meanwhile, Russia said on May 8 it had tabled a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council to back up a deal on establishing safe zones in Syria. “We confirm that a draft resolution has been introduced,” Russian news agencies cited the country’s U.N. mission spokesman Fyodor Strzhizhovsky as saying in New York, without giving details.
A source at the U.N. told Russia’s Interfax news agency that “a vote on the draft will take place possibly this week.”