Moscow (AFP) – Russia on Friday said it had already stopped bombing in areas of Syria set to be designated safe zones under an agreement it inked with Iran and Turkey.
The three key powerbrokers signed off on a Russian plan Thursday to establish four “de-escalation zones” in rebel-held territory of the war-torn country in a bid to shore up a shaky ceasefire.
Under the pact — which Moscow said comes into force from Saturday — the three sides have a month to define the exact borders of the safe zones where fighting and air strikes should be halted.
Moscow — which is flying an air campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad — said that in order to ease the deal it has stopped bombing the proposed zones.
“From 00:00 May 1 the use of Russian airforce aviation in areas corresponding to the de-escalation zones was halted,” senior Russian military commander Sergei Rudskoi told a news briefing.
The safety zone initiative is the latest attempt by Moscow to forge an end to the six-year conflict after its military might turned the tide of the conflict in favour of Assad.
Rudskoi outlined the proposed zones in the northwestern Idlib province, the north of central Homs province, Eastern Ghouta near Damascus and an area of the south involving Daraa and Quneitra provinces.
Along the frontiers of the “de-escalation zones” will be “security zones” with checkpoints and observation posts to monitor and secure access run by the three guarantor countries.
Moscow said that it was talking to “Jordan and a number of other countries” to sign up as backers of the initiative.
Russia’s military underlined that it will keep on fighting against the Islamic State group and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra, including inside the “de-escalation zones”.
Rudskoi said that Syrian government troops freed up after the safety zones come into force will be sent to fight IS in central and eastern Syria and along the Euphrates river with Russian air support.
<figure><figcaption>Damage following an air strike on a hospital in the village of Deir Sharqi on the eastern outskirts of Maaret al-Numan in northern Syria's Idlib province, on April 27, 2017 <span>Copyright AFP/File Omar HAJ KADOUR</span> </figcaption></figure>