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De-Escalation Zones Take Effect in Syria

© AP Photo / Pavel GolovkinPeople gather around a Russian military truck to receive a food aid in Maarzaf, about 15 kilometers west of Hama, Syria, Wednesday, March 2, 2016
People gather around a Russian military truck to receive a food aid in Maarzaf, about 15 kilometers west of Hama, Syria, Wednesday, March 2, 2016 - Sputnik International
Safe zones across Syria have officially gone into effect as of midnight tonight in the country.

Diplomatic efforts in Astana, Kazakhstan, between Russian, Turkish and Iranian delegations have resulted in an agreement to enact safe zones in Syria in what observers hope will be a big step toward peace in the war-torn country. Moscow, Ankara and Tehran emerged as the guarantors of the strategy and authorized the memo creating the safe zones.

The zones are located in the Idlib province, an area north of the city of Homs, in eastern Ghouta, and in southern Syria, and while they have taken effect, it will be about a month before all details of their establishment are finalized, Russian officials have said. 

Syrian army artillery soldiers in Idlib province in northwestern Syria - Sputnik International
'Big Step Toward Peace': Safe Zones in Syria to Respect Territorial Integrity

The zones are intended to provide refuge for displaced persons and help in the distribution of humanitarian aid. Syrian government and opposition forces are barred from engaging with each other in the de-escalation zones, a rule to be enforced with checkpoints and security buffers, Sputnik has previously reported. 

"The work of combat aircraft in zones of de-escalation, especially of the international coalition planes, is not expected at all, with or without notification," said Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia’s Special Presidential Representative for Syria. 

The decision to usher in safe zones was "supported by all principal players," according to Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin, among them the United Nations, the US administration, Saudi Arabia and other nations. This led him to conclude "there is a certain degree of guarantee that the memorandum will be implemented."

People walk near a Syrian national flag at the President bridge in Damascus, Syria March 14, 2016 - Sputnik International
Memorandum Signed: What Are the Safe Zones in Syria?

Iranian, Israeli, Turkish, Syrian and Russian defense ministries and intelligence services cooperated during "working sessions" to bring about a de-escalation of violence, Fomin said.

"The position of the United States, which welcomed the steps towards reducing the level of violence in Syria, improving the humanitarian situation and creating the environment for resolving the conflict," Fomin said, "has played a positive role." 

Nevertheless, political analyst Evgeny Kutikov wrote in a recent report that the new policy shouldn’t be regarded as a "concession to Washington."

One hope is that safe zones will free up more resources for Damascus to fight Daesh, says Sergey Rudskoy, head of Main Operations of the Russian General Staff. "Within the borders of de-escalation zones, military actions between the warring sides stop, including the use of any weapons," and of course, "including airstrikes," Lavrentyev noted. 

A truck of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). (File) - Sputnik International
Why Safe Zones Proposed by Russia, Iran, Turkey Have Nothing to Do With US' Plan

On Thursday, the US State Department announced that it “appreciates” the efforts of Turkey and Russia for brokering the deal. 

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, a phone call between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson provided a platform for both sides to discuss the situation in Syria and the prospect of establishing peace. 

"The sides discussed the de-escalation for the situation in that country, stabilizing the ceasefire regime, increasing anti-terrorism efforts, and intensifying external assistance to the inter-Syrian negotiation process," the ministry said May 5. 

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