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06 May 2017, 02:44 | Clarence Schmidt
Syrian regime allies Russian Federation and Iran, and rebel supporter Turkey, yesterday signed a memorandum on a Moscow-backed plan to create safe zones in Syria to bolster a fragile truce.
He also said the Syrian government would abide by the agreement, unless rebel groups carried out attacks in the zones - ambiguous language that critics called a loophole that allows violations committed by Assad's side.
Yet it was not clear if the injunction on weapons use in the safe zones would extend to Syrian government warplanes, which continue to mount a large-scale air campaign on rebel-held territories throughout the country - including the four areas mentioned in the proposal.
Lavrentyev, whose remarks were carried by Russian news agencies, said US -led coalition aircraft would be able to operate against the Islamic State group in specific areas, but the "de-escalation zones" were now closed to their flights. However, Lavrentiev said Russian Federation would do everything possible to ensure Syria's air force would be grounded.
He said the USA -led coalition aircraft would still be able to operate against IS in specific areas.
The Kazakhstan agreement calls for setting up four zones in northern, central and southern Syria.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "encouraged" by the breakthrough.
"It is good if there could be some way that everyone can agree to create a place of safety, medical care and humanitarian aid for people in Syria who have suffered far more than any human-being on earth", he said.
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Putin said Wednesday that "as far I could tell" the U.S. leader broadly supported the idea in a phone call they held on Tuesday.
The United Nations' Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, hailed the announcement as a "step in the right direction" toward a broader truce.
The Syrian government supported the plan, but Syrian opposition announced it would not accept it, saying the pact threatens Syria's territorial integrity.
The second will encompass certain parts in the north of Homs province, and the third will be comprised of some areas of Eastern Ghouta, outside of Damascus. Lavrentiev said Moscow was ready to send observers to monitor the zones, Russian news agencies reported.
The surprise announcement by Russian Federation of "safe zones" have been a key demand of rebel-backers Turkey.
The spokesman for Guterres said the United Nations will continue to support de-escalation within the framework of the Security Council resolutions on Syria and has also been proactively backing discussions in Astana regarding detainees and humanitarian demining. The plan was not immediately published, so the details of it are unclear.
The opposition was protesting Iran's participation at the conference and role as a guarantor of the agreement, accusing it of fueling the sectarian nature of the conflict that has killed some 400,000 people and displaced half the country's population.
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