Russian-Proposed 'De-escalation' Plan to Save Syria Gets Underway

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime planes bombarded the rebel-held village of al-Zalakiyat and adjacent positions in the Hama countryside.

Mohammed Rasheed, a spokesman for the Jaish al-Nasr rebel group based in Hama, confirmed that fighting had broken out after midnight.

While the deal and precise boundaries of the zones are still being developed, it could also be the first to involve monitoring by foreign troops in Syria, which has been embroiled in a bitter civil war for six years.

A ceasefire in four zones outlined in a new Syria peace plan is scheduled to go into effect Saturday, a Russian envoy to de-escalation talks told reporters, according to state media.

Iran and Turkey agreed on Thursday to Russia's proposal, but the signed memorandum has not been published, leaving its details unclear.

The diplomat, Aleksandr Lavrentiev, also suggested that Russian and Turkish warplanes would be prohibited from flying in four designated "de-escalation zones", where Syrian government and rebel forces are supposed to stop fighting each other.

Representatives of several rebel groups in Astana said they could not accept Iran as a guarantor of the deal.

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

Osama Abo Zayd, a spokesman for the Syrian military factions at the Kazakhstan talks, told The Associated Press it was "incomprehensible" for Iran to act as a guarantor of the deal.

The Russian defence ministry had said the agreement would come into force in the early hours of Friday. Senior Russian and U.S. military officials have reportedly agreed to implement the terms of the deal, which would still allow planes to fly over the zones but not to drop bombs.

A working group will be set up within two weeks to resolve technical issues and the three countries agreed to set up the four areas by June 4.

On Wednesday, Syria's Foreign Ministry announced the acceptance of the Syrian government to the safe zone plan.

But the Pentagon also vowed that the de-escalation agreement would not affect the USA -led air campaign against the Islamic State. Moscow says that includes flight and strikes by Syrian war planes and air raids by the US -led coalition. Bashar al-Assad is expected to go along with the wishes of Russian Federation and Iran.

The main opposition groups have rejected the deal, saying it lacks "safeguards and compliance mechanisms".

The chemical incident prompted the fire dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase from which it said the attack had been launched, increasing tensions between the US and Russian Federation.

Both Assad's regime and the rebel opposition have ignored previous cease-fire agreements.

Lavrentyev, whose remarks were carried by Russian news agencies, said USA -led coalition aircraft would be able to operate against the Islamic State group in specific areas, but the "de-escalation zones" were now closed to their flights.



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