Sides ‘working hard’ to finalise Syria de-escalation zones memorandum – source

Participants of Syria peace talks attend a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

The memorandum on the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria is almost finalised, but work on final details is proving difficult, a source in one of the delegations at the Astana talks on Syria told Russian agency Sputnik on Thursday.

“It has almost been finalised, but not fully yet, ” the source said. “We are working hard on it.”

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry’s Asia and Africa Department Director General Aidarbek Tumatov also confirmed to Sputnik that work on the memorandum had entered its final stage, and the document was likely to be signed by the sides at a plenary session after 4 p.m. local time.

On Monday, Fatih Hassoun, a representative of the Syrian armed opposition, said that Russia made proposals aimed at creating zones for de-escalation of tensions. According to the documents, Russia proposed to set up security zones in Idlib province, to the north of the city of Homs, in Eastern Ghouta and in the south of the country.

The new round of the Astana talks, which brings together the sides of the Syrian conflict – Damascus and the armed opposition, as well as the three ceasefire mediator states – Russia, Iran and Turkey, kicked off on Wednesday, while a meeting at the experts level took place on Tuesday.

The first three rounds of talks on the Syrian settlement brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran, were held in Kazakh capital of Astana on January 23-24, February 15-16 and March 14-15. During the talks, the participants agreed to set up a ceasefire monitoring group, among other points.