20:55 GMT +316 July 2018
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    A Syrian national flag flutters as the ruins of the historic city of Palmyra are seen in the background, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016.

    Why US is Unlikely to Help Russia With Syria Safe Zones Amid 'Secret Talks'

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    US-Led Coalition Strike on Syrian Army Military Point Near al-Tanf (33)

    The Wall Street Journal reported citing US officials that the President Donald Trump's administration has been holding "secret talks" with Russia over the creation of a safe zone near al-Tanf where the US-led coalition had repeatedly bombed pro-Damascus allied forces.

    According to WSJ, there were at least two "secret" meetings in Jordan between US and Russian officials during which the de-escalation zones were discussed. One more meeting allegedly should have taken place in Amman this week, however, it was canceled and a new date has not been set yet.

    The journal cited officials familiar with the talks as saying that the "secret" negotiations are "threatened by continued tensions in southern Syria between the U.S. and forces allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad."

    "The talks signal a gambit by the White House to attempt some kind of cooperation with Moscow," the WSJ wrote.

    The news comes after on June 8, the US-led coalition bombed pro-Damascus forces near al-Tanf in the area of a deconfliction zone following an alleged attack by a combat drone resulting in no coalition forces' casualties. This was the third attack by the coalition on Damascus' allies in the area. The first coalition's strikes on Damascus' allies occurred on May 18 in al-Tanf with the Pentagon saying that their presence in the area allegedly threatened US' and British special operations forces that have been training Syrian rebel fighters near the border with Iraq and Jordan. On June 6, coalition's strikes in al-Tanf resulted in deaths and injuries of Syrian soldiers.

    On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry slammed the move, saying that it seems that the US-led coalition is more interested in bombing the Syrian army instead of fighting terrorists. It also accused the coalition and Syrian rebels it supports of "conspiring" with Daesh leaders by letting them leave encirlement and move to other areas.

    Interestingly, the Pentagon and the previous US administration have opposed the safe zones as US military didn't want to coordinate actions with Russia and were wary of deepening US involvement in the Syrian war.

    "But officials say they hope to find a way to work with Russia in destroying the Islamic State [Daesh]. If the de-escalation zone is successful, the U.S. and Russia would look to set up other sites," sources told WSJ.

    In an comment for Sputnik, Orientalist scholar Elena Suponina said that by bombing the pro-Assad forces in Syria, Washington "shows that it doesn't want to help Russia in the creation of safe zones."

    According to Suponina, a member of the Russian Instutute of Strategic Studies, the US' position "is contrary to the Russian idea of the creation of de-escalation zones." US officials were previously invited to participate in the realization of the idea, she reminded.

    The Americans are supporting many small groups fighting against Damascus, she noted.

    "The US carries out strikes in Syria in those regions where the bases of opposition it cooperate with are located. They hit [Syrian government] forces even if they don't closely approach these bases. It raises questions concerning the true aim of these strikes. Probably, the US is gearing up for Syria's split. They [US officials] want the opposition to control certain regions, including those in the south, and maybe in the north [of Syria]," the expert concluded.

    On May 4, Russia, Turkey and Iran signed a memorandum on the establishment of safe zones in war-torn Syria as part of the the Astana talks on Syrian settlement. The four zones include the northwestern Idlib province and parts of the neighboring Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces, the north of the central Homs province, eastern Ghouta near Damascus and certain parts in the country's southern Deraa and Quneitra provinces The memorandum on these de-escalation zones took effect on May 6.

    The agreement between Moscow, Tehran and Ankara presumes the cessation of airstrikes and combat actions between the Syrian Army and militants who have already joined or will join the ceasefire regime. The creation of de-escalation zones was proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin during talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi.

    The United States and Russia signed the bilateral memorandum of understanding in October 2015 to ensure their flight safety during combat missions over Syria.

    US-Led Coalition Strike on Syrian Army Military Point Near al-Tanf (33)


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