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Syrian Regime’s Breaches Threaten ‘De-escalation Zones’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Stringer, AFP | A Syrian forces’ artillery observer looks through a scope as smoke plumes rise on the horizon, near the town of Qumhanah in the central province of Hama, on April 1, 2017.

Beirut – The first day of a memorandum on setting de-escalation zones in Syria eased violence, but did not see a complete cessation of fighting as forces of Bashar Assad’s regime violated the calm in several areas, particularly in al-Qaboun neighborhood in Damascus and in the countryside of Hama, where they launched two separate attacks in addition to announcing the killing of four opposition fighters in Deraa.

The opposition said the memorandum could be threatened if regime forces continue to breach the ceasefire.

“Moscow respects the memorandum on the de-escalation zones contrary to the regime, while the opposition factions will remain in a defensive position with the right to respond,” chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army Ahmed Beri told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday.

He added: “Opposition factions responded to regime forces attacks launched at night on several positions in the countryside of Hama. The forces were trying to advance in the area, but the factions confronted them.”

Asked about the maps that delineate borders of the zones separating regime forces from opposition factions, Beri, who participated in the last Astana meeting, said: “In a week, if the memorandum lasts, we will meet as military experts with Russian and Turkish representatives to place those maps according to the opposition and the regime locations in those areas.”

Last week, states acting as guarantors in bolstering the ceasefire in Syria signed a memorandum on four de-escalation zones proposed by Russia during the fourth round of the Astana talks, held in the Kazakh capital on Thursday.

While two senior Russian and US military officials have agreed to fully resume a previous agreement intended to prevent midair incidents by warplanes from the two countries flying over Syria, Russia’s Foreign Ministry published on its website Saturday a detailed text of the memorandum on Syria’s de-escalation zones.

The statement said the memorandum is to be in force for six months with the possibility of automatic extension for the same period.