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Agreement in Astana on New De-Escalation Zone in Syria’s Idlib Province

Sept. 16, 2017 (EIRNS)—The Sixth Astana meeting on the Syrian ceasefire closed yesterday, with another agreement on de-escalation zones. The three guarantor powers, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, agreed to set up a new de-escalation zone in Idlib province and to deploy observers around the zone "to prevent incidents and clashes between the conflicting parties." A joint Iran-Russia-Turkey coordinating center is being established to coordinate actions of this observer force, also referred to as de-escalation control forces.

The statement released stressed that the de-escalation zones are a temporary measure renewable after six months, and that the zones will not, under any circumstances, "undermine the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic." The statement also calls for international humanitarian aid, and for impetus to such initiatives as the intra-Syrian dialogue, backed by the UN-led Geneva process.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, attending as an observer this week, had high praise for the impact the new agreement can have on the Geneva process. He reiterated that there is no military solution to the conflict.

De Mistura reported that next week he will be consulting with the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council in New York, and then announce when the next Geneva meeting will take place.

"We are counting to actually work on the momentum of Astana, in order to make sure that this round will be serious—hopefully as close as possible to direct discussions,"

he said.

The next Astana meeting is planned for October. Russia’s Special Envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said that,

"If they apply through diplomatic channels, China, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon will also be invited to next meetings as observers."

Lavrentyev stressed the importance of getting the armed opposition groups to join with the Syrian army against both ISIS and Al Nusra (which some of these groups were once allied with against Assad). "The Syrians’ unity against terrorism will lay the groundwork for enhancing trust between them," he said.

Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, who heads the Syrian delegation in Astana, praised the agreement. He stressed Syria’s support to any initiative that stops shedding the Syrian blood and alleviates the suffering of its people everywhere. In this regard, he said that the final statement was "positive and the outcome of joint international efforts."

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