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Syria Fighting Eases As Russian Deal Takes Effect

Syria Fighting Eases As Russian Deal Takes Effect

Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed in a memorandum signed on May 4 to establish four separate de-escalation zones in Syria for at least six months, according to a text detailing the agreement published by the Russian foreign ministry on Saturday.

A potential complication to implementing the plan is the crowded airspace over Syria. There's also a proposal to deploy third-party monitoring forces.

Several ceasefire deals have previously been agreed since Syria's conflict broke out in 2011, but they have all failed to permanently stem the fighting.

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 USA and Gulf monarchies.

For example, the plan is built around the creation of "safe-zones" that are to be monitored by Russian, Turkish and Iranian troops, but no one seems to know the boundaries of such zones. An official with Russia's military general staff said other countries may eventually have a role in enforcing the de-escalation areas.

In Iraq, government forces faced stiff resistance from Islamic State in northwest Mosul yesterday after opening a new front against the militants there in a push to rout them from the city after seven months of fighting.

Osama Abo Zayd, a spokesman for the Syrian military factions at the Kazakhstan talks, told The Associated Press it was "incomprehensible" for Iran to act as a guarantor of the deal.




The U.S. State Department said this week that "the United States supports any effort that can genuinely de-escalate the violence in Syria, ensure unhindered humanitarian access, focus energies on the defeat of [Islamic State] and other terrorists, and create conditions for a credible political resolution of the conflict".

But it's hard to imagine how many boots on the ground would be needed to monitor the yet to be mapped areas or how and where exactly Russian, Iranian and Turkish troops would patrol.

Late on Friday, a Syrian opposition coalition, the High Negotiations Committee, denounced the deal in a strongly worded statement.

A rebel commander said the general level of violence was reduced, but added: "Regime attempts (to advance) in the Hama countryside continue".

The Observatory said government and allied forces had managed to take a number of points in al-Zalakiyat and rebel forces had returned fire and also shelled the government-held town of Halfiya.

A previous ceasefire agreement signed in Astana on December 30 helped reduce overall violence for several weeks but eventually collapsed. Other attempts at a cease-fire in Syria have all ended in failure.

Meanwhile, more USA forces are reaching areas under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

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