Russia, Iran and Turkey, acting as guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire, have officially announced the establishment of four de-escalation zones in the country, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said during the Astana talks on Syria on Friday.
Abdrakhmanov confirmed that the de-escalation zones have been established in Eastern Ghouta, in Idlib province, in certain areas in the northern part of the Homs province, in certain areas in the provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo, as well as in certain areas in southern Syria.
“Under no circumstances the establishment of the said de-escalation zones does not undermine sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic,” the minister voiced a joint statement adopted as a result of the meeting.
The militant-held province of Idlib, mostly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda), had been the main problem of the initiative since its official announcement in May. Now, it seems that the decision how to solve it was at least partly agreed.
The de-escalation zones are “a temporary measure which will initially last 6 months and will be automatically extended on the basis of guarantors’ consensus,” according to the statement.
The sides also introduced a joint Iranian-Russian-Turkish Coordination Center “to coordinate activities in the de-escalation areas.”
Eaerlier reports appeared that the sides agreed the borders of the zone in Idlib and were negotiating over which monitors will be deployed. The Turkish media pushed an idea that 25,000 members of the Turkish Army and Turkish-backed groups of the Free Syrian Army could be involved in the operation.
Meanwhile, the Russian military continued efforts to recinfile the warrying sides in Syria. 7 field commanders and over 1,000 militants have defected to the Syrian Army, the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria said on Thursday.
“An agreement has been reached that seven field commanders from illegal armed groups and more than 1,000 militants under their control switch sides to join Syria’s government troops,” the center said, according to the Russian state-run news agency TASS. “The national reconciliation committee in the Homs governorate reached an agreement with the mayor of Al-Karyatein to rebuild the Al-Bassel city hospital. A meeting was also held with National Security Bureau representative Somar Jadid to discuss problems that hamper concrete steps to deepen the process of reconciling the opposing sides.”