HOPES FOR PEACE IN SYRIA KIN­DLED AS TURKEY, IRAN, RUS­SIA AGREE ON DE-ES­CA­LA­TION ZONES

Af­ter an agree­ment by Turkey, Rus­sia and Iran at the As­tana peace talks, the es­tab­lish­ment of de-es­ca­la­tion zones in Syria’s north­ern Idlib prov­ince has been an­nounced

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

Rus­sia, Iran and Turkey agreed Friday to post ob­servers on the edge of a de-es­ca­la­tion zone in north­ern Syria’s Idlib re­gion and parts of the neigh­bor­ing Latakia, Hama and Aleppo re­gions in an at­tempt to ease the six-year con­flict, as they re­leased a joint state­ment af­ter two days of talks in As­tana, Kaza­khstan.

RUS­SIA, Iran and Turkey on Friday agreed to jointly mon­i­tor a fourth safe zone around Syria's Idlib prov­ince as part of the tri­par­tite plan to ease the six-year con­flict.

In a joint state­ment af­ter two days of talks in Kaza­khstan, the three pow­ers said they agreed "to al­lo­cate" their forces to pa­trol the zone cov­er­ing the op­po­si­tion-held Idlib prov­ince and parts of the neigh­bor­ing Latakia, Hama and Aleppo re­gions.

The three guar­an­tor states, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the As­sad regime and some op­po­si­tion fac­tions, are meet­ing in As­tana for a sixth round of talks aimed at end­ing the long­stand­ing con­flict.

In a sep­a­rate state­ment re­leased by the Turk­ish For­eign Min­istry, a plan to es­tab­lish a cen­ter for co­or­di­na­tion was also an­nounced. “In ac­cor­dance with the agree­ment reached by the three guar­an­tor states at the As­tana meet­ings, ob­servers from the three states will be de­ployed at check­points and ob­ser­va­tion posts to be es­tab­lished in the se­cu­rity zones that will con­sti­tute the bor­ders of the de-es­ca­la­tion area. The prin­ci­pal task of the ob­server forces is de­fined as pre­vent­ing the oc­cur­rence of hos­til­i­ties be­tween the regime and the op­po­si­tion as well as to mon­i­tor any cease­fire vi­o­la­tions. The ac­tiv­i­ties of the ob­server forces will be co­or­di­nated by the Joint Co­or­di­na­tion Cen­ter to be es­tab­lished by the three guar­an­tor states,” the state­ment said.

The U.N.'s spe­cial en­voy on Syria Staffan de Mis­tura, in ad­di­tion to del­e­gates from Jor­dan and the U.S., are at­tend­ing as ob­servers. Ac­cord­ing to the Kaza­khstan For­eign Min­istry, Qatar is also par­tic­i­pat­ing for the first time as an ob­server.

“Dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tion process re­gard­ing the Idlib de-es­ca­la­tion area, Turkey, as the guar­an­tor of the op­po­si­tion, played a de­ci­sive role in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the mem­o­ran­dum by tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the ap­proaches and assess­ments of the op­po­si­tion groups on the ground,” a Turk­ish For­eign Min­istry state­ment added.

Mean­while, Rus­sia, Iran and Turkey, which have been seek­ing to en­sure a broad cease-fire in war-torn Syria, could each send 500 mon­i­tors to a new safe zone for civil­ians in north­west­ern Idlib prov­ince, a se­nior Rus­sian of­fi­cial said Friday.

Turkey, which sup­ports some op­po­si­tion groups, and Rus­sia and Iran, which back As­sad's regime, have been hold­ing talks in Kaza­khstan since Jan­uary.

They are seek­ing to im­ple­ment last­ing cease­fires in areas where fight­ing has been heav­i­est be­tween op­po­si­tion forces and proAs­sad troops.

Turk­ish del­e­gate was led by For­e­ing Min­istry Deputy Un­der­sec­re­tary Se­dat Önal dur­ing the talks.

Ye­hya Aridi, a mem­ber of the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion del­e­ga­tion at the talks, wel­comed "any agree­ment that can stop the vi­o­lence and stop the killing of the in­no­cent Syr­i­ans."

He called for the re­lease of thou­sands pris­on­ers still held by the govern­ment, say­ing "their is­sue should be dis­cussed and dealt with as soon as pos­si­ble."

The par­ties pre­vi­ously agreed to es­tab­lish four de-es­ca­la­tion zones where in­tense fight­ing is tak­ing place be­tween op­po­si­tion groups and the As­sad regime at the As­tana meet­ing held on May 3-4.

Ac­cord­ing to a mem­o­ran­dum signed be­tween the par­ties, the de-es­ca­la­tion zones would in­clude areas in Idlib prov­ince and cer­tain parts of the prov­inces of Latakia, Aleppo and Hama, cer­tain parts of Homs prov­ince, east­ern Ghouta and Da­m­as­cus as well as cer­tain parts of Deraa and al-Quneitra.

In ad­di­tion to the ces­sa­tion of fight­ing, the de-es­ca­la­tion deals with end­ing flights and air strikes by the regime or U.S.-led an­tiDaesh coali­tion.

At the fifth meet­ing on July 4-5, it was agreed that the par­ties would re­sume work on the bor­ders of the zones.

A sep­a­rate deal was reached be­tween the U.S. and Rus­sia in the south­ern Syr­ian cities of Daraa and Quneitra, and Rus­sian mil­i­tary po­lice were de­ployed in the area to mon­i­tor the cease­fire that started on July 9.

The Rus­sian De­fense Min­istry also de­clared a cease­fire deal in the Da­m­as­cus sub­urb of east­ern Ghouta.

Rus­sia had also an­nounced a cease­fire deal in Homs; how­ever, the deal was only reached with an op­po­si­tion group that has lim­ited dom­i­nance in the area.

Ac­cord­ing to the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, which mon­i­tors daily the death toll and the air strikes across Syria, the im­pact of the de-es­ca­la­tion zones has been sig­nif­i­cant.

"Since the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the de-es­ca­la­tion zones agree­ment in Syria, the death toll has fallen sig­nif­i­cantly and the air strikes have al­most stopped," in the re­spec­tive areas, Ab­del Rah­man, head of the ob­ser­va­tory, told AFP.

But Rah­man said Da­m­as­cus and Moscow "took ad­van­tage of the de-es­ca­la­tion zones to change the bal­ance of power on the ground and have re­taken dou­ble the ter­ri­tory they con­trolled be­fore May."

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Syria regime and op­po­si­tion groups along with other at­ten­dees take part in the ses­sion of the Syria peace talks in As­tana on Sept. 15.

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