Syria safe zones hit by clashes on first day

The latest round of Syrian peace talks in Astana was sponsored by opposition supporter Turkey and Syrian government backers Russian Federation and Iran.

Political and armed opposition groups have accused Russian Federation of being unwilling or unable to get Assad and his Iranian-backed militia allies to respect past ceasefires.

Abo Zayd says the Shiite-majority country is fueling the sectarian nature of the conflict and that "Iran can't play the role of a peace maker".

Western and Saudi-backed Syrian opposition coalition the High Negotiations Committee criticised the deal, saying it lacked legitimacy and sought to divide the country.

The deal seeks to ground all military aviation in the four areas, including flights by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

The fourth zone will include parts of the Deraa and Quneitra provinces in southern Syria, according to the memorandum seen by AFP.More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's war began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

The deal calls for the establishment of four "de- escalation" zones across stretches of eight Syrian provinces.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are to enforce the zones, but Russian general staff official Sergei Rudskoi said that other countries could participate.

Access to the areas will be controlled via security zones complete with checkpoints and observation posts.

Aron Lund, a Syria expert, said the deal may dampen violence and improve the humanitarian situation in some regions.

There is no clear mechanism to resolve conflict and violations like most other previous deals struck by backers of the warring sides.

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Syrian government supported the de-escalation plan, but said it would continue to fight.

The Syrian government and rebel delegations are not signatories, but Syrian state news agency SANA reported that DamascU.S. supports the Russian plan.

Earlier, a Pentagon spokesman, US Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, referred CNN to the State Department for comment but said the de-escalation zones are west of where ISIS operates in Syria. Russian Federation says the zones are now closed to aircraft from the USA -led coalition.

Russia's envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, said global coalition aviation operations were "absolutely not allowed, whether or not there is advance warning. With notification or without notification, this issue is now closed".

But under Thursday's deal, the entire province is designated to be one of the four "de-escalation zones".

He said the US-led coalition aircraft would still be able to operate against Islamic State in specific areas. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman. The U.S. official said, without opposition signatures, it raises the question about whether the agreement is in effect.

The first zone includes the whole of Idlib province along with certain parts of Latakia, Aleppo and Hama provinces.

Russia's military says it wants to restore an agreement with the United States to coordinate air operations over Syria and reduce the risk of aircraft colliding.

A rebel commander in northern Hama said almost an hour after the deal went into effect, battles raged with government forces.

Washington has given the deal a guarded welcome, and United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said he was "encouraged" by it.

The rebel commander said the general level of violence was reduced, but added: "Regime attempts (to advance) in the Hama countryside continue".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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