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Russia Says Boundaries of Eastern Ghouta ‘Safe Zone’ Determined | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A man walks by damage and debris in Ain Tarma, in the eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus August 21, 2014. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Russia’s defense ministry said Saturday that its officials had signed a deal with moderate Syrian rebels at peace talks in Cairo on how a de-escalation in the East Ghouta zone near the capital Damascus will function.

“As a result of talks held in Cairo between Russian defense ministry officials and moderate Syrian opposition brokered by the Egyptian side… agreements have been signed on how the Eastern Ghouta de-escalation zone will function,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

The statement did not give further details, but said the agreement includes the zone’s borders as well as routes for delivery of humanitarian aid and free movement of civilians.

The rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta is in one of four proposed “de-escalation zones” designated in an agreement reached by Iran and Russia- the allies of Bashar Assad’s regime- and rebel backer Turkey in May.

But the deal has yet to be fully implemented over disagreements on the monitoring mechanism for the safe zones.

The most recent talks in Kazakhstan this month between Russia, Turkey and Iran failed to iron out of the details of the four safe zones.

Russia said that the sides have now signed agreements under which “the borders of the de-escalation zone are defined as well as the deployment locations and powers of the forces monitoring the de-escalation.”

It said the sides had also agreed “routes to supply humanitarian aid to the population and for free movement of residents.”

Russia said it plans to send in the first humanitarian convoy and evacuate the wounded “in the next few days.”

The Eastern Ghouta region is a major rebel stronghold near the capital, and it has been the frequent target of regime military operations.