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Defense Ministry: Russian air force not used in Syria since May 1

May 05, 17:01 UTC+3

After the memorandum setting up de-escalation zones in Syria has been signed, Russia’s Aerospace Force will focus on the offensive operation east of Palmyra

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© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, May 5. /TASS/. Russia stopped to use its air force in Syria under the memorandum on de-escalation zones in Syria from May 1, Sergei Rudskoi, chief of the main operation department of Russia’s General Staff, said on Friday.

"From 00:00 on May 1, Russia stopped to use its air force in area designated as de-escalation zones in the memorandum," he said.

"Setting up de-escalation zones will improve the position of the government troops. The Russian Aerospace Force will continue supporting them in their operations aimed at eliminating militants of the Islamic State international terror group (outlawed in Russia)," he said.

"The area of Kabun, which is completely controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra militants and from where Damascus, including the Russian embassy there, is being shelled, was not included into this zone [of de-escalation - TASS]. The operation against terrorists in this area will be continued," he said.

According to Rudskoi, the focus will be on the offensive east of Palmyra and the liberation of Deir ez-Zor which has been besieged by militants for three years now, as well as on the liberation of the southeastern areas of the Aleppo Governorate.

"The issue of Russia’s return to full-scale participation in the Memorandum on incidents prevention in the Syrian airspace will be discussed during bilateral contacts with US colleagues in near future," Rudskoi said.

"In order to prevent incidents and combat engagements between the conflicting parties, security areas will be established along the borders of de-escalation zones to include observation posts for control of the ceasefire compliance and checkpoints to provide for the movement of unarmed civilians, the delivery of humanitarian aid and assistance to economic activity," the general said.

"The work of checkpoints and observation posts, and also control of security zones will be exercised by the personnel and formations from Russia, Turkey and Iran. The forces of other parties may be involved upon mutual consent of the guarantor countries," Rudskoi said.

"A Joint Working Group will be established from representatives of the guarantor countries within two weeks to outline the exact borders of the de-escalation zones and security areas by June 4, 2017 for approval, as well as roadmaps of separating armed opposition formations from terrorist groupings," Rudskoi said.

"I’d like to point to the fact that signing of the memorandum on the setting up of de-escalation zones in Syria could not mean that the fight against terrorists of the Islamic State [IS] and Jebhat an-Nusra (both are banned in Russia) operating in the territory of that Arabic Republic is over ," he said.

Twenty-seven filed commanders of opposition groups in Syria have agreed to accept the terms of the memorandum on de-escalation zones, Stanislav Gadzhimagomedov, a deputy chief of the main operation directorate of Russia’s General Staff, said.

According to Gadzhimagomedov, the talks in Astana differed from other Syria-settlement negotiations due to the fact that the opposition was represented not by politicians or emigrants but by field commanders who actually control the situation on the ground.

"Despite their confrontation with government troops, these people understand their responsibility for the future of the integrated Syrian state. Rather open talks yielded common approaches to the stabilization of the situation in Syria," he stressed.

"All incidents of violations in the de-escalation zones in Syria will be probed into and decisions on retaliation measures against violators, including through fire suppression, will be taken after such investigations," he said.

Putin's order

A memorandum on the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria was prepared upon an order from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant-General Alexander Fomin said on Friday.

At talks in Astana on Thursday, Russia, Turkey and Iran signed a memorandum on creating de-escalation zones in Syria.

"The document was drafted by the Russian Defense Ministry upon an order from Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin in order to ensure the regime of ceasefire on the territory of Syria," Fomin said.

"The main stakeholders, including the United Nations, the United States and Saudi Arabia, have welcomed the memorandum which can to a certain extent guarantee that it will be implemented. The memorandum will take effect at 12 a.m. on May 6," he said.

Memorandum on de-escalation zones

De-escalation zones will be established in four areas. They will particularly cover the Idlib Governorante, some parts of its neighboring areas in the Latakia, Hama and Aleppo Governorates north of the city of Homs, eastern Ghouta, as well as the Daraa and al-Quneitra Governorates in southern Syria. Safe areas will be set up on the borders of the de-escalation zones with checkpoints for individuals and humanitarian aid convoys, as well as with ceasefire monitoring points.

Starting from May 6, military activities and aircraft flights in the de-escalation zones will be banned. At the same time, Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed to take all the necessary measures to continue fighting against terrorists on these territories and in the rest of Syria.

Ten days after the signing of the memorandum, the three guarantor countries will form a joint working group on de-escalation which will particularly determine the borders of the de-escalation zones and safe areas. Maps of these zones and areas will be ready by May 27.

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