Tuesday, 23 May, 2017

Russian-backed safe zones plan a bid to divide Syria - opponents

Clashes in northwest Syria after de-escalation zones take effect - sources Relative calm in Syrian safe zones after deal implemented
Jeannie Matthews | 15 May, 2017, 18:19

The Russian deal, signed in Astana on Thursday, says maps of the new "de-escalation zones" will be ready by June 4. The U.S. was not part of negotiating the deal and it said there is "reason to be cautious". It called on the US and other Arab allied countries, to prevent the implementation of the deal.

The observatory reported some clashes, but added that it has not recorded any deaths as a result.

Syrian children, who were evacuated from the last rebel-held pockets of Syria's northen city of Aleppo, flash the sign of victory upon their arrival on 19 December 2016. The Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee terrorist front predictably denounced it.

With the help of Russian Federation and Iranian-backed militias, the Syrian government has gained the military upper hand against rebel groups, including some supported by Turkey, the US and Gulf monarchies.

There were also reports of shelling and gunfire in other parts. The conflict is multi-sided, with Syria's ruling regime, which is widely accused of war crimes, battling a spectrum of belligerents ranging from the so-called moderate opposition to UN-designated terrorist groups, such as Islamic State. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman. A State Department envoy was at the talks in Kazakhstan where the deal was reached, though the United States was not one of the signers of the agreement. The United States is not party to the Astana agreement and the Syrian rebels have not signed on to the deal.

The main Syrian opposition umbrella group criticized a Russian proposal to establish "de-escalation zones" in Syria as vague and illegitimate and said it rejected the role of Iran as guarantor in any deal. Given the exclusion of the United States from the latest agreement and its criticism of its framework, it can be assumed that it is not what Washington had in mind when Mr Trump floated the idea.

And most complicating of all, all three of those countries are already combatants mired in the war, far from neutral "peacekeepers". It provides for a ceasefire, rapid deliveries of humanitarian aid and the return of refugees after "de-escalation zones" are created across stretches of eight Syrian provinces.

G-7 countries call for renewed common effort against cybercrime
The discussion on such topic came "very timely, unfortunately", Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan noted at the meeting. In concrete terms, the ministers mandated experts to continue their work on assessing the nature of the threat.

In those areas, combat operations, including flights by military aircraft, are outlawed as of May 6. Because Moscow is monitoring the agreement, he said, it is unlikely to "impede its own military actions on the ground".

The details of the plan will be worked out over the next several weeks.

Russian Federation and Syria have said they will not use air power in the designated zones, but if their forces claim the zones are being used as bases for militant activity, the ban can be waived.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian General Staff, speaks to the media in the Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 5, 2017.

Rebels fighting to topple Assad are enraged by Iran's role in the deal and blame the Shiite power for fuelling the sectarian nature of Syria's conflict, now in its seventh year. "Iran's activities in Syria have only contributed to the violence, not stopped it".

"This leaves Tahrir al-Sham with every reason to rally opposition to the Astana deal and to torpedo it through bombings and other provocations", Syria analyst Aron Lund wrote in an article on Friday. "How exactly that is going to play out - we don't know the details", said Dekker.

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