New Agreement on Safe Zone is ‘Success of Russian Diplomacy in Syria’

Sputnik-Middle East
Buildings destroyed during combat activities in the residential part in Homs, Syria. (File)
On July 31, representatives of the Russian Defense Ministry and moderate Syrian opposition reached an agreement on the establishment of a third de-escalation zone in Syria during their meeting in Cairo, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Thursday.

The spokesman added that 84 settlements with a population of more than 147,000 people were included in the zone.

“The reached agreements enable a search for a real political solution to the conflict. It is clear that the moderate opposition’s attitude toward the legitimate central government is not very stable. The most important thing, however, is that there is no division of Syria in sight and that the country will retain its unity,” Sokolov told Sputnik.

According to the analyst, the process of de-escalation of the Syrian conflict is embracing new regions and thus bringing closer the end to the civil war and peace in the country.

“From my point of view, the process that has begun — and successfully continues — can be quite productive. This is the success of our diplomacy and Russia’s actions in Syria in general,” the expert concluded.

Earlier, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that the Russian military police would be tasked with ensuring that the opposing sides stay apart, monitoring the cease-fire, ensuring humanitarian aid and transport of the injured and the sick.

According to Konashenkov, the Committee of National Justice, including representatives of opposition and major ethnic, political and religious groups, will be set up in the Homs de-escalation zone to ensure its effectiveness.

Konashenkov stressed that the cease-fire regime in the Homs zone, as in the other two zones, did not cover the militants of Jabhat Fatah al Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front and Daesh.

In May, the participants of the Astana talks on Syrian settlement agreed on establishing four safe zones in Syria as part of the de-escalation process. The first one, in the north of the country, covers the province of Idlib and neighboring districts of Latakia, Aleppo and Homs. The second is in the north of Homs province. The third is located in the south of Syria, in the Quneitra and Daraa provinces, while the fourth one is in Eastern Ghouta.

On July 24, Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, the chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operational Directorate, said that the borders of the de-escalation zones north of the Syrian city of Homs and in the eastern Ghouta region were agreed upon during the fifth round of international meetings in Astana in early July, while consultations on another zone in Idlib province have continued.

Russia, Turkey and Iran, as well as Syrian government representatives and the country’s opposition, participate in the negotiation process in Astana. The United States, Jordan and the United Nations act as observers.

Lavrov Explains Difficulties of Creating Safe Zone in Syria’s Idlib

The work on the establishment of the safe zone in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province will be complicated due to the possible difficulties in coordination of its parameters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday.

Lavrov added that the de-escalation zone in Idlib was the “most complicated of the four zones about which Russia, Turkey and Iran had agreed in Astana in May.”

“The work is currently underway on the third zone, the largest and probably the most complicated — in the Idlib province… It will not be easy to coordinate the parameters of the de-escalation zone,” Lavrov told journalists on the sidelines of the ASEAN forum in Manila.

“We assume that [Iran, Russia and Turkey] as well as other players including the United States maybe have influence on all the militants, on all the armed formations, excluding of course, the terrorists, which do not fall within any agreements. If [Iran, Russia, Turkey and the US-led coalition] will simultaneously use influence on certain players, I believe the compromises contributing to the ceasefire and creating the conditions for the political process, would be found,” Lavrov pointed out.

On May 4, Russia, Turkey and Iran, the guarantor states of Syrian ceasefire, signed a memorandum on the creation of four zones of de-escalation in Syria, which include the province of Idlib and seven other regions. The four zones are expected to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, help prevent future clashes and restore economic activity. The memorandum on the establishment of the four zones came in force on May 6.

The zones in southern Syria and in the Eastern Ghouta are already operating effectively while on Monday, the representatives of the Russian Defense Ministry and moderate Syrian opposition had reached an agreement on the establishment of the third de-escalation zone in the northern part of the Syrian Homs province.

On Saturday, a member of Syria’s Tomorrow opposition movement told Sputnik that the efforts of Russia and Egypt will possibly make Syria’s northwestern Idlib province the next stage of de-escalation in the country after the province of Homs.