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Russia, Turkey, Iran Finally Agree on Idlib Safe Zone in Syria

© AFP 2023 / Mohamed al-Bakour Syrian northwestern city of Idlib.
Syrian northwestern city of Idlib. - Sputnik International
The guarantor-states of the Syrian ceasefire regime have finally agreed on the creation of a safe zone in Idlib, an issue that had been on the agenda for a long time as the region is mostly controlled by terrorists and rebels.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia, Turkey and Iran have agreed on all four safe zones in Syria, including on the Idlib de-escalation area, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry confirmed after a joint statement was issued.

Astana emphasized that the creation of safe zones is a temporary measure.

"[The guarantor states] emphasize again that the creation of the de-escalation areas and security zones is a temporary measure the duration of which will initially be 6 months and will be automatically extended on the basis of consensus of the Guarantors,"  the statement read.

Moreover, the guarantor states of the ceasefire in Syria decided to "form Joint Iranian-Russian-Turkish Coordination Center aimed at coordinating activities of de-escalation control forces in the de-escalation areas."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) and Turkish President Erdogan Recep Tayyip Erdogan (File) - Sputnik International
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"[Russia, Turkey and Iran] emphasize the need for the conflicting parties to take confidence-building measures, including the release of detainees / abductees and the handover of the bodies as well as identification of missing persons, to create better conditions for the political process and lasting ceasefire," the statement concluded.

Russia pays particular attention to the detainee issue in Syria and will make additional efforts to resolve it upon the request of the Syrian armed opposition, Russian delegation head at Astana talks Alexander Lavrentyev said.

All three ceasefire guarantor states — Russia, Iran and Turkey – will deploy observer units to monitor a de-escalation zone in Syria’s Idlib, Lavrentyev said. Earlier in the day, a source in one of the delegations told Sputnik that Russian and Iranian forces will monitor areas controlled by the government side in the Idlib safe zone, while the Turkish forces will be involved in monitoring the opposition there.

Guarantor states of the Syrian ceasefire regime, namely Russia, Turkey and Iran, have managed to separate the Syrian opposition from the terrorists, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Jaberi Ansari said after a joint statement with Russia and Turkey was released. "We have managed to achieve progress  because we have divided terrorist groups and opposition who participate in ceasefire regime."

The Russian delegation head said that, however, terrorists are still present in the Syrian de-escalation zones.

"Certain separation was made but the terrorist organizations are still present in these zones," Lavrentyev told reporters, answering the question whether the Astana-6 talks allowed to finalize the separation of the opposition from terrorists.

"We have been calling for this [separation] for a long time, including on the United States, since 2016. However, even with the safe zones created for example in the south-east, there are still a lot of Nusra Front [or Jabhat Fatah al Sham, a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia] units, retaining control over several areas," the Russian delegation head pointed out.

The end of the stage of establishment of de-escalation zones for the Syrian settlement at the Astana-6 talks will allow for a full ceasefire in the war-torn country and its return to peaceful life, Lavrentyev said.

"We believe that the finalization of this stage of establishing de-escalation zones opens the way for a real end to the bloodshed, for the full stabilization of the situation in Syria and the detailed discussion of the issue of increasing the measures of trust between the warring parties and returning the republic to peaceful life."

The results of the sixth round of the Astana talks on Syria may be considered at the UN Security Council, the Iranian official added.

Russia, Turkey and Iran will soon announce new observer states of the Astana process, he said, adding that "we want to invite other global and regional players."

The Syrian government delegation, in its turn, said that it is up to other states to make the right decision and join the Astana process, which so far has been "successful," when asked about his opinion regarding the possibility of the United Arab Emirates, China, Iraq, Egypt or some other states joining the Astana process.

Jaafari also praised the government forces for breaking the siege of the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor.

"I have to pay tribute to the victories of our forces that were achieved in Deir ez-Zor. We were able to break the siege that was imposed on that steadfast city. The food and medicine convoys are now flowing into Deir ez-Zor markets," Jaafari told reporters.

He stressed that the guarantor states of the Syrian ceasefire and armed opposition must continue fighting against Daesh and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups in safe zones.

"In the joint statement, the three guarantors with armed opposition groups who have joined their agreement, will have the duty to continue fighting Daesh, Nusra Front within de-escalation zones. So, it's crystal clear that guarantors and armed opposition are required all together to continue fighting terrorist groups who refused to join to a ceasefire," Damascus delegation head Bashar Jaafari told reporters.

Meanwhile, the Syrian armed opposition delegation at the Astana-6 talks believes that the new agreements on de-escalation zones in Syria will allow starting setting a transitional governing body not involving President Bashar Assad, delegation member Colonel Fateh Hassoun told Sputnik.

"The Syrian armed opposition believes that the agreements reached at Astana-6 about four de-escalation zones will allow switching to the creation of the transitional governing body… I emphasize that the Astana meeting is aimed at the full-scale reconciliation and the launch of the political process for the creation of a transitional governing authority without the regime of Bashar Assad and his generals," Hassoun said.

"The agreement about the creation of the fourth de-escalation zone in Idlib is reached at this round [of talks]. However, there are some difficulties in this region. They are related to both the implementation and the control over the zone," Hassoun added.

In his turn, Syrian opposition delegation spokesman Yahya Aridi said that the opposition is concerned over the possible presence of the Iranian forces in the de-escalation zones.

So far, three zones of de-escalation have been established in Syria: in the south along the border with Jordan, in Eastern Ghouta and to the north of Homs, while negotiations on the fourth de-escalation zone in the Idlib province were held since summer and were the main issue on the agenda at the Astana-6 talks, which conclude on Friday.

Syrian army artillery soldiers in Idlib province in northwestern Syria. file photo - Sputnik International
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When commenting on the creation of a de-escalation zone, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this week that Ankara-Moscow relations are not challenged by any controversies over the jointly secured de-escalation process in the area. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier noted progress on the issue, while previously he said that there had been difficulties with regard to the creation of the de-escalation zone.

The creation of the Idlib safe zone has been especially crucial due to the fact that around 9,000 terrorists of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as al-Nusra Front) terrorist group were attempting to take control over the Syrian province of Idlib, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. A member of the armed opposition delegation at the Syrian settlement talks told Sputnik in August that the de-escalation zone's establishment could be hampered by terrorists.

The memorandum on the establishment of four de-escalation zones in the war-torn country was signed during the fourth Syrian settlement talks in Kazakhstan's capital of Astana in May, with Russia, Iran and Turkey acting as the guarantors of the ceasefire.

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