DAMASCUS, SYRIA (3:00 PM) – Representatives from the three guarantor states for de-escalation in Syria: Iran, Russia and Turkey, have officially reached an agreement for the fourth and final so-called “de-escalation zone”, in the Idlib Governorate in northwestern Syria. This is reported by the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to the statement by Kazakhstan, “[The guarantor states] emphasize again that the creation of the de-escalation areas and security zones is a temporary measure the duration of which will initially be 6 months and will be automatically extended on the basis of consensus of the Guarantors.” Furthermore, the statement read that the three parties have agreed upon a joint Russo-Iranian-Turkish Coordination Center aimed at coordinating the de-escalation efforts.
The de-escalation zones, also called safe zones, are a result of the efforts by the three guarantor states and the Syrian Arab Republic to ensure a peaceful end of the conflict with the so-called moderate rebel forces in Syria. As part of this process, the allied states undertook an effort to distinguish between terrorist groups and Syrian armed opposition forces that would be willing to negotiate a peaceful solution.
“[Russia, Turkey and Iran] emphasize the need for the conflicting parties to take confidence-building measures, including the release of detainees / abductees and the handover of the bodies as well as identification of missing persons, to create better conditions for the political process and lasting ceasefire,” the statement by the Kazakh Foreign Ministry clarified. It is reported that the Russian and Iranian troops will monitor the areas under control of the Syrian government, while Turkey will coordinate the efforts by rebel forces.
Deputy Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Jaberi Ansari, declared in a press statement that “We have managed to achieve progress because we have divided terrorist groups and opposition who participate in ceasefire regime.”
Bashar Jaafari, the delegate of the Syrian government in Astana furthermore clarified that the de-escalation zones and the accompanying ceasefire will not apply to the terrorist groups of Daesh (ISIS) or al-Nusra affiliates.
The recent agreement on all four de-escalation zones in Syria comes as a result of the sixth round of the Astana talks, a series of negotiations that have been taking place in the capital of Kazakhstan since January.
While the three other safe zones, being one along the Jordanian border, one in Eastern Ghouta and one to the north of Homs, were agreed upon earlier, negotiations about the Idlib De-escalation Zone were postponed since summer. The delay was due to difficulties in reaching an agreement regarding Idlib, presumably due to difference in opinion between Russia and Turkey. Earlier this week however, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that there was no challenging controversy between Ankara and Moscow regarding the establishment of a jointly secured de-escalation process in Idlib Governorate.
The establishment of a de-escalation zone in Idlib comes at a crucial time, as reports have it that around 9,000 armed fighters from terrorist organisation Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front, are attempting to wrest control over the area from other rebel groups that are still in control of the majority of the province.