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UN Envoy Hails Syria Safe Zones Plan, Opposition Vexed - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russia, Turkey, and Iran signed on Thursday a memorandum on creating safe zones in Syria, leaving the delegation of the armed Syrian opposition infuriated after a new round of peace talks held in the Kazakh capital Astana.

The three countries act as guarantors of the Astana peace process. Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said that next Syria peace talks would be held in Astana in mid-July.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura hailed on Thursday the plan for creating safe zones in Syria as a step in the right direction towards a real cessation of hostilities.

“Today in Astana I think we have been able to witness an important promising positive step in the right direction in the process of de-escalation of the conflict,” de Mistura told reporters.

Russia’s lead negotiator on Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said that Moscow was ready to work more closely with the United States and Saudi Arabia on Syria.

“Unfortunately, the Americans are still ignoring our attempts to establish closer military cooperation but we will keep trying,” he said. He also said that Moscow was ready to send its observers to Syria’s free zones.

On the other hand, Syria’s armed opposition said it could not accept creating safe zones in Syria because it threatens the country’s territorial integrity and said it would also not recognize Iran as a guarantor of the peace plan.

“We want Syria to maintain its integrity,” opposition delegate Osama Abu Zaid said after the three guarantor states signed the memorandum.

“We are against the division of Syria. As for the agreements, we are not a party to that agreement and of course we will never be in favor (of it) as long as Iran is called a guarantor state.”

Abu Zaid also said that there is “a huge gap” between Russia’s promises and actions.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Thursday the agreement reached will cover all of Idlib province, as well as parts of Aleppo, Latakia, and Homs.

It said the deal would ban all use of weapons in those areas, and allow humanitarian aid to be brought in.