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Moscow to welcome any US contribution to setting up de-escalation zones in Syria

May 12, 2017, 3:46 UTC+3

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also did not rule out the possibility of US involvement in monitoring these zones

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© REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

FAIRBANKS /United States/, May 12. /TASS/. Russia will welcome any contribution by the United States to the memorandum on establishing de-escalation zones in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters. He did not rule out the possibility of US involvement in monitoring these zones but noted that this should be agreed with all parties concerned and should be acceptable for Damascus in the first place.

"We will welcome any contribution by the United States to the implementation of this concept," Russia’s top diplomat said when asked whether the issue was discussed during the talks in the United States. He recalled that "initially, it was (US President) Donald Trump who spoke about the importance of creating such safe zones where the population can breathe a sigh of relief."

Lavrov noted that a meeting of experts representing Russia, Turkey and Iran, that is, the countries acting as the guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria would be held in 10-12 days. "The experts will discuss specific parameters of these zones’ operation, including buffer zones around them, observation posts and checkpoints," he explained.

"The memorandum signed in Astana envisages that observers from third countries could be involved in efforts to ensure the operation of the de-escalation zones. Of course, that should be agreed with all parties concerned. Above all, this should be acceptable for the Syrian government," the minister noted. "We are holding contacts with the potential participants in this process, and we hope we will be able to discuss that in greater detail with our partners," he concluded.

Memorandum on de-escalation zones

On May 3-4, Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana hosted the fourth high-level international meeting on Syria. The countries acting as ceasefire guarantors - Russia, Turkey and Iran - signed a memorandum on setting up de-escalation zones in Syria. According to Russia’s chief negotiator and Presidential Envoy on the Syrian Settlement, Alexander Lavrentiev, these zones are being established for a period of six months with the possibility of automatic extension for the same period.

The de-escalation zones are to be set up in four regions of Syria, namely, in the Idlib province and some parts of the neighboring provinces (Aleppo, Latakia and Hama), the area north of Homs, the suburb of Damascus East Ghouta and some provinces in Syria’s southern parts - Daraa and Quneitra. A ban on military operations, including aviation flights, has been imposed in the de-escalation zones as of May 6. Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed to make every effort to fight against terrorism both in these areas and beyond.

The countries acting as the ceasefire guarantors will set up a joint working group on de-escalation ten days after signing the memorandum. It will deal with defining the boundaries of the de-escalation zones and safe zones, among other issues. The maps of the designated areas will be drafted by May 27.

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