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Syria: Ceasefire, flight ban over ‘safe zones’ to take effect
May 5, 2017, 1:01 pm

The Syrian military has been evacuating thousands of civilians who have been fleeing eastern Aleppo and other rebel-held towns [Xinhua]

Iran, Russia and Turkey have agreed on a plan to create safe zones in Syria with the aim of alleviating civilian hardship.

The Memorandum of De-Escalation signed in Astana, Kazakhstan on Thursday night calls for establishing four safe zones which the Russian news agency TASS said include “the Idlib province and some neighboring territories (Latakia, Hama and Aleppo) to the north of Homs, East Ghouta and some provinces in southern Syria (Daraa and Quneitra)”.

The Memorandum also calls for the implementation of a ceasefire on May 6 and immediate unfettered aid delivery to the hardest hit areas.

Importantly, the plan envisages a complete halt to Syrian air force – and potentially US-led coalition – flights over the designated areas.

The ban would also apply to Russian warplanes as long as there is no provocation from rebel groups.

But some opposition groups who attended the latest round of Astana talks said it harmed Syria’s sovereignty and could end up dividing the country.

The opposition groups, some of whom walked out of the talks, and the US criticized Iran’s role in the negotiations.

Delegations from the Syrian government, Jordan, the US and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura also attended the talks.

The US State Department, however, said it was in favor of any effort to reach a resolution to the Syrian crisis.

In a press conference following the conclusion of the talks, De Mistura said: “Today in Astana I think we have been able to witness an important promising positive step in the right direction in the process of de-escalation of the conflict.”

Russian officials said the Kremlin is ready to send observers to monitor the ceasefire and flight ban.

The new Memorandum comes two days after a phone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump.

Both leaders had agreed that the suffering in Syria had gone on for far too long and pledged to do their utmost to resolve the crisis.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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