WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — At the latest Astana meeting on Syria on May 3-4, three ceasefire guarantor states finalized and signed a memorandum on establishment of four safe zones in Syria. The four zones span the northwestern Idlib province and parts of the neighboring Latakia, Hama and Aleppo, the north of the central Homs province, Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, as well as southern Daraa and Quneitra regions. The memorandum came into force on May 6.
"We have a proposal that we are working on with the Russians right now. I won't share the details, but my sense is the Russians as enthusiastic as we are to de-conflict the operations," Dunford stated.
When asked whether the proposal will deal with the city of Deir Ez-Zor, Dunford told reporters, "It will."
He added that he spoke with his Russian counterpart on Thursday night following the US strikes on pro-government forces in Syria.
"I spoke with my Russian counterpart as recently as last night," Dunford said. "That was a force protection strike. Our commanders on the ground felt like they were threatened to dead point, and the rules of engagement allowed them to do that."
Dunford explained that despite the situation on the ground in Syria becoming increasingly complex, the United States and Russia have been able to de-conflict operations.
"We’ve gone back and had a conversation at every level now that those kind of incidents don’t take place again," he explained. "Last night, I made a commitment that they would not happen again if our forces were not threatened, and everybody understands what the rules are."
Dunford stressed that while the US military is precluded by law from coordinating with the Russians, they have for many months worked ‘very hard’ to deconflict their operations.
"The primary purpose is to ensure safety of our airmen, our personnel on the ground and to allow us to continue the campaign. I am confident that we’ve made progress in that regard over the last couple of months," he stated.
The US-led coalition conducted the airstrike on Thursday, claiming the pro-Syrian government forces were moving well inside a de-confliction zone in southern Syria and posed a threat to forces of the United States and its allies. The coalition's spokesperson told Sputnik that the coalition fired warning shots prior to carrying out the airstrike.
Earlier in the day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov called the US airstrike "absolutely unacceptable" pointing out that it was carried out in "violation of Syria's sovereignty."
The two countries' defense officials continue to speak routinely on the best ways to working in specific areas to ensure the elimination of the Daesh terror group (outlawed in Russia), Dunford added.
The province of Deir ez-Zor has large Daesh presence. Its capital city of Deir ez-Zor, held by the Syrian government, has been under siege by the Islamists since 2014, but is receiving aid from Russian and the United Nations.
A nationwide Syrian ceasefire regime came into force on December 30, 2016 and has been holding up in general, despite continued reports of violations. The UN Security Council passed a resolution in December 2016 supporting the effort.