US, Russia, regional countries reach ceasefire deal in southwest Syria

Posted July 08, 2017

Although Russia's de-escalation plan officially went into effect in early May, continued regime offensives in multiple areas that are ostensibly under ceasefires show that the safe zones are still in their infancy.

Moscow and Tehran, which back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and rebel supporter Ankara agreed in May to establish four de-escalation zones in a potential breakthrough towards calming a war that has claimed an estimated 320,000 lives since March 2011.

"We have already requested but have not received a reply so far", Lavrov told reporters after talks with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris.

Both countries are looking ahead to how to stabilize Syria, he said, with the fight against ISIS "progressing rapidly".

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The deal marks a new level of involvement for the Trump administration in trying to resolve Syria's civil war.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are negotiating on seven documents related to establishing mechanism on de-escalation zones and coordination center to monitor the implementation, deploying troops and how to use force in the zones, chief of the Russian delegation Alexander Lavrentiev said after the talks.

The change in the Trump administration's attitude to no-fly zones comes as Iraqi forces and rebel groups - with the help of the US-led global coalition - make significant gains against ISIS in its two most significant strongholds, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

But on Wednesday, those countries said they had failed to agree on the details, such as the boundaries of the zones and who will police them.

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Tillerson warned the Syrian regime, which is backed by Iran as well as Russian Federation, against taking advantage of America's limited focus by moving into areas freed from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. In retaliation, Russian Federation threatened to target US and coalition aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River. "Russia is neither capable nor willing to give us what we want in Syria", Lister said.

Russian Federation warned its military would track aircraft from the US-led coalition as potential targets over Syria and suspended a hotline meant to avoid midair incidents after the U.S. downed a Syrian jet last week that had dropped bombs near the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

"Ultimately, this process, in our view, will lead to a resolution of Assad's status, the Syrian people should determine their country's political future through a political process" the USA official stressed.

Arab and Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces broke into Raqa on June 6 after a months-long operation to encircle the northern city. One, in Astana, is co-sponsored by Russia, Turkey, and Iran and concerns immediate cease-fire conditions.

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Israel has also struck Syrian military installations on several occasions in the past few weeks after shells landed into the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan Heights Golan Heights.