Miércoles, 21 Marcha, 2018

Syria rejects international forces in safe zones

Irune Rengel | 09 May, 2017, 09:55

Political and armed opposition groups have rejected the proposal, saying Russian Federation has been unwilling or unable to get Assad and his Iranian-backed militia allies to respect past ceasefires.

The US will thoroughly examine Russian proposal to create four safe zones in Syria, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, adding that Washington now has a number of unanswered questions regarding the initiative.

The United States is closely examining whether a Russia-brokered deal to establish safe zones in Syria can work in the long term, Pentagon chief James Mattis said.

"There will be no presence by any worldwide forces supervised by the United Nations", foreign minister Walid Al Moallem said in Damascus.

The Syrian government said Monday that the "de-escalation zones" agreement in the war-ravaged country negotiated by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, which took effect this weekend, could not be monitored by others, including the United Nations.

But, Reuters reported, Mattis said, "The devil's always in the details" and it remains to be seen if the plan - brokered by Assad-backing Russian Federation and Iran and rebel-backing Turkey - will work.

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"Moscow has invested all of its cards in the Astana process", Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said in a briefing posted on its website.

"We do not accept a role for the United Nations or global forces to monitor the agreement", Moallem told reporters.

The Syrian official noted that it was "premature" to talk about whether the agreement would be successful, but noted that the government would "harshly" retaliate against any violation by rebels while the deal was in force. But Mattis also said the plan poses many unanswered questions, including whether it would be effective.

He also wondered if the safe zones will affect the US-led coalition's fight against IS, saying that he thinks "the global community is united in the sense of wanting to see ISIS put on its back foot".

On another diplomatic track, the United Nations' Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, announced plans to reconvene talks in Geneva between representatives of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and opposition leaders May 16. "I think the worldwide community is united in the sense of wanting to see ISIS put on its back foot", the defense secretary said.

Al-Moallem said the Syrian government's alternative to stalled negotiations has been the implementation of "reconciliation agreements" around the country.

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Barzeh came under siege last month, after government forces captured a major road near the area separating it from rebel-held eastern suburbs of Damascus.

The development is the latest in a series of population transfers in the war-torn country over the past year.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels and their families began evacuating from a district of Damascus for the first time yesterday, bringing the government closer to recapturing all of the capital.

Over the past months, tens of thousands of people living in besieged areas around Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo - Syria's largest city - have surrendered under similar agreements.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said hundreds are expected to leave Barzeh, with around 1,500 expected to leave on Monday and more in the coming weeks.

"All wars eventually come to an end and we've been looking for a long time how to bring this one to an end", Mattis told reporters traveling with him to Copenhagen to meet with USA allies.

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