Russia and US agree over implementation of Syria ‘de-escalation’ zones

Smoke rises from an emergency service point after an airstrike at the rebel-held village of Maar Zita in Idlib province, Syria April 27, 2017. (REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah)

The Russian and U.S. chiefs of general staff agreed on Saturday to fully resume the implementation of a joint memorandum on preventing mid-air incidents over Syria, Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying.

Russian General Valery Gerasimov and General Joseph Dunford of the United States discussed in a phone call the Syria de-escalation zones and agreed to continue working on additional measures aimed to avoid clashes in Syria.

The aircraft safety memorandum was signed in October 2015 after Russia began bombing targets in Syria to support Syrian government forces in their fight against Islamic State and other armed groups.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement that Dunford and Gerasimov “talked about the recent Astana agreement and affirmed their commitment to de-conflicting operations in Syria. Both also agreed to maintain regular contact.”

An agreement reached at peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, and backed by Russia, Iranand Turkey, calls for “de-escalation zones” in major areas of conflict between Syrian government forces and rebel groups.

The largest de-escalation zone includes Idlib province and adjoining districts of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces. The other three zones are in northern Homs province, the Eastern Ghouta region east of the capital Damascus and along the Jordanian border in southern Syria.

The guarantors will finalise maps of the de-escalation zones by June 4, and the agreement can be extended automatically if the three guarantor states agree.

– Reuters