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Moscow’s Zones in Syria Predominate ‘Astana’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian Democratic Forces fighters gesture while posing on a damaged airplane inside Tabqa military airport after taking control of it from ISIS, west of Raqqa city, Syria , April 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said

Beirut, Moscow- The Russian proposal to establish four “zones of de-escalation” is expected to predominate the UN-sponsored “Astana 4” intra-Syrian talks between opposition forces and regime officials that are planned to kick off in the Kazakh capital on Wednesday.

Armed opposition factions, expected to participate in the Astana summit, “approved in principal” the Russian proposal and agreed to discuss the issue in details in Kazakhstan.

An opposition source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Syrian factions would each take a distinct position concerning the Russian proposal according to their deployment or presence in the areas where there would be a de-escalation.

“Later, a collective and final position will be announced,” the source said.

On Monday, Russia surprised the Syrian opposition by suggesting four “zones of de-escalation” in the country to limit tension between opposition forces and the regime, and the creation of a joint working group to prepare for a battle to remove ISIS and al-Nusra Front from those Syrian areas, with the help of the opposition.

Around 15 opposition figures from the Syrian armed opposition arrived on Tuesday in the Kazakh capital.

Russia’s Sputnik news agency quoted an informed source as saying that Ahrar al-Sham might also join the talks after boycotting the previous round of discussions.

However, Mohammad Abu Zayd, a spokesperson for the “Ahrar” told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We will not send any representative to Astana.”

Meanwhile, sources close to the Astana meeting told the newspaper that guarantor states could propose to the Syrian sides a number of documents that were drafted by experts during talks in Tehran on April 18 and 19.

Those documents deal with the enhancement of the ceasefire in Syria and de-escalation of tension, in addition to a paper concerning a swap deal of hostages between the warring parties.

Separately, Kurdish officials are expected to make an announcement in the next few hours, declaring Tabqa city in Syria’s Raqqa province as completely liberated from ISIS.

This new development pushed ISIS members to retaliate against civilians by detaining hundreds of residents inside the city, preventing them to leave. The terrorist organization also targeted a refugee camp in the province of Hasaka, on the Iraqi border, leaving more than 32 people dead and dozens injured.