Russia's Defense ministry denies fighting of Syrian government and opposition units

Cheryl Sanders
May 11, 2017

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which monitors the war relying on local sources said that fighting has decreased in Syria since the Russian-backed deal has come into effect.

According to the agreement, the government and opposition forces will halt fighting for six months in four zones, in the northwestern province of Idlib part of Aleppo countryside, the central province of Homs, the Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus, and areas in the Daraa and Qunaitera provinces in southern Syria.

Iran and Turkey agreed on Thursday to a Russian proposal for de-escalation zones in Syria, but the memorandum the three guarantors signed has not been made public, leaving its details unclear.

In the tangled mess that constitutes Syria's battlefields, there is much that can go wrong with the plan agreed on in talks Thursday in Kazakhstan.

Earlier, a Pentagon spokesman, US Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, referred CNN to the State Department for comment but said the de-escalation zones are west of where ISIS operates in Syria.

The presumption is that Russian Federation and Iran will ensure compliance of their ally, the government of President Bashar Assad, and opposition-backer Turkey will bring rebel factions on board.

Mohammed Rasheed, a spokesman for the Jaish al-Nasr rebel group based in Hama, confirmed that fighting had broken out after midnight.

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said on Friday that there had been no bombing raids by Russian aviation in the four zones since 1 May. Some of those areas had already seen a drop in violence by May 6, and Russia's defense ministry said Syria was "stable" at the end of the deal's first day.

The United States gave an extremely cautious welcome to the deal, citing concerns over Iran's role as a guarantor, even as it expressed hope that the agreement could set the stage for a settlement.

Late Friday, a Syrian opposition coalition, the Higher Negotiating Committee, denounced the deal in a statement.

"If that happens, we would be looking at a more serious effort than anything in the past", Aron Lund, a Syria expert wrote in an article Friday.

"It also seems likely to provoke clashes between the jihadis and those rebels who intend to abide by the Astana plan, which could, in turn, tempt the al-Assad government to seize new opportunities for advancement".

If the fighting stops in the four safe zones in the next days and weeks, it would be "an important signal", the statement added.

The deal aims to establish the zones for six months and are meant to enforce the cessation of all hostilities between government and opposition fighters.

Along the lines of the "de-escalation zones" will be "security zones" with checkpoints and observation posts to monitor and secure access.

The Pentagon has said the de-escalation agreement will not affect its campaign against ISIS.

Lavrentyev, whose remarks were carried by Russian news agencies, said "the operation of aviation in the de-escalation zones, especially of the forces of the global coalition, is absolutely not envisaged, either with notification or without".

Other reports by iNewsToday