Syria fighting eases as safe zones plan begins

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.

The deal was signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey on Thursday, said the report.

Russia's foreign ministry published the full text of the agreement on Saturday. Rebels rejected the deal and said they would not recognise Iran as a guarantor of any ceasefire plan.

A Russian plan to set up "de-escalation zones" in Syria was to go into effect at midnight Friday, but it will be at least another month before the details are worked out and the safe areas fully are established, according to Russian officials.

Turkey's foreign ministry suggested the scope was wider and would include the whole of Idlib province; parts of Latakia, Aleppo and Hama provinces; parts of Homs province; parts of Damascus and the East Ghouta region; and also parts of the southern Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

The fact that the de-escalation agreement was supported by the United Nations, the United States and Saudi Arabia guaranteed its implementation, the RIA and Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin as saying.

The agreement envisages the halt of hostilities between Syrian government forces and armed opposition groups within the zones and the creation of conditions for humanitarian access, medical assistance, the return of displaced civilians to their homes and the restoration of damaged infrastructure.

The four zones are only safe for the so-called armed opposition factions and exclude the Takfiri terrorist groups of Daesh and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

But during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's joint news briefing with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi Wednesday, Erdogan concentrated on condemning terrorism rather than Assad's government.

Political and armed opposition groups have accused Russian Federation of being unwilling or unable to get Assad and his Iranian-backed militia allies to respect past ceasefires.

It is not clear how the ceasefire or de-escalation zones will be enforced in areas still to be determined in maps to emerge a month from now.




Russian Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi told reporters Friday that personnel from Iran and Russia, which back the Syrian government, and from Turkey, which backs some rebel groups, will operate checkpoints and observation posts.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday, before Russian Federation said U.S. -led coalition flights would also be restricted under the deal, that the United States had "reason to be cautious" about the chances for success of the deal, though it appreciates the efforts by Russian Federation and Turkey to help lower violence in Syria.

Some of those areas had already seen a drop in violence by Saturday, AFP's correspondents and a monitoring group said.

A ceasefire was unsustainable in the presence of the Iranian-backed militias in Syria, he said, adding: "We can't imagine Iran playing a role of peace".

Fighting eased in Syria on Saturday after a deal signed by government backers Russian Federation and Iran and rebel supporter Turkey to create four "de-escalation zones" began to take effect.

The Observatory said government and allied forces had managed to take a number of points in al-Zalakiyat, and rebel forces had returned fire and also shelled the government-held town of Halfiya.

"Despite some violations the situation is much calmer than before", said opposition activist Mohammed al-Homsi, speaking via Skype from northern Syria.

"We express the confidence that after such a statement, the flights by Syrian combat aircraft and their operation on the territory of de-escalation zones will cease", Lavrentyev said, according to TASS.

But he stressed Russia's air force would continue striking militants from the Islamic State (IS) group elsewhere in Syria. The U.S. and Russian Federation signed the memorandum in 2015 when Russian Federation began its air operations in the country.

The plan, details of which will still be worked out over the next several weeks, went into effect at midnight Friday.

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