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Russia Stops Bombing Proposed Syria Safe Zones, Bans US Coalition Jets Access | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russian lead negotiator on Syria Alexander Lavrentyev, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov and U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura attend the fourth round of Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, May 4, 2017.

Russia announced on Friday that it had ceased bombing in areas of Syria set to be designated safe zones under an agreement it inked with Iran and Turkey. However, Russia also said the proposed “de-escalation” zones in Syria will be closed to aircraft from the United States-led coalition.

“From 00:00 May 1 the use of Russian airforce aviation in areas corresponding to the de-escalation zones was halted,” senior Russian military commander Sergei Rudskoi told a news briefing.

For his part, Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia’s envoy to the peace talks in Kazakhstan, said Friday in remarks covered by Russian media that “the operation of aviation in the de-escalation zones, especially of the forces of the international coalition, is absolutely not envisaged, either with notification or without,” he said. “This question is closed.”

In an effort to consolidate a fragile ceasefire, the three parties signed off on a Russian plan Thursday to establish four “de-escalation zones” in rebel-held territory of the war-torn country.

Under the pact — which Moscow said comes into force from Saturday — the three sides have a month to define the exact borders of the safe zones where fighting and air strikes should be halted.

Moscow — which is flying an air campaign in support of regime head Bashar al-Assad — said that in order to ease the deal it has stopped bombing the proposed zones.

The safety zone initiative is the latest attempt by Moscow to forge an end to the six-year conflict.
Rudskoi outlined the proposed zones in the northwestern Idlib province, the north of central Homs province, Eastern Ghouta near Damascus and an area of the south involving Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

Along the frontiers of the “de-escalation zones” will be “security zones” with checkpoints and observation posts to monitor and secure access run by the three guarantor countries.

Moscow said that it was talking to “Jordan and a number of other countries” to sign up as backers of the initiative.

Russia’s military underlined that it will keep on fighting against ISIS and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra, including inside the “de-escalation zones”.

Rudskoi said that Syrian regime troops freed up after the safety zones come into force will be sent to fight ISIS in central and eastern Syria and along the Euphrates River with Russian air support.