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Implementation of ‘Safe Zones’…Russia Excludes Qabun | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin attends a briefing in the Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia, on Friday, May 5, 2017. AP

Moscow – Astana’s agreement on setting up “safe zones” has taken effect at midnight on Saturday after Russia has announced that US-led coalition warplanes will be barred from flying over these zones in Syria while confirming it will continue fighting ISIS and Nusra Front in Qabun.

Russian President’s Special Envoy on Syria Peace Talks in Astana Alexander Lavrentiev said that Moscow is ready to work closely with the United States and Saudi Arabia.

For his part, Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said that the position of the United States positively influenced the establishment of the de-escalation zones.

“The US supported measures aimed to reduce violence in Syria, improvement of humanitarian situation and creation of conditions promoting political settlement of the conflict,” Fomin said.

Fomin added that the support of the UN, US administration and Saudi Arabia guarantees its implementation.

He said that the Russian Defense Minister held bilateral talks with Ministers of Defense of Iran, Turkey, Syria and Israel.

“Intelligence services and foreign affairs departments cooperated with each other permanently. A large work was done in order to convince the Syrian leadership and leaders of armed opposition to take measures aimed to deescalate the conflict.”

Chief of the Russian Main Operational Directorate Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy said that since May 1, the Russian Aerospace Forces have stopped operating in the de-escalation zones determined by the Memorandum.

In a press release on Friday, Rudskoy said: “The safe zone does not include the area of Qabun controlled by insurgents of al-Nusra Front. The Damascus city, and the Russian Embassy in particular, are shelled from there. Operation aimed to eliminate terrorists in this area is continued.”

The Russian official explained that in order to prevent incidents and combat actions between the opposing sides along the de-escalation zone borders, security lanes are established.

“These lanes include posts for observation of reconciliation regime and checkpoints for controlling movement of civilians without weapons, delivery of humanitarian aid, and support of economic activity,” he said.

Operation of the checkpoints and observation posts as well as control over security zones will be provided by personnel from Russia, Iran, and Turkey, he added, noting that forces from other countries can be involved under agreement of state-guarantors.

Regarding the regime forces that will be able to move freely due to these safe zones, Rudskoy said that “the Syrian regime troops will be sent to continue offensive on the ISIS formations in the central and eastern parts of Syria as well as to liberate areas located along the River Euphrates. The Russian Aerospace Forces will support these actions.”