MESOP NEWS Syria Daily: Russia-Iran-Turkey Declare De-Escalation Zone in Northwest

situationBy Scott Lucas – eaworldview – September 16, 2017 – Russia, Iran, and Turkey have declared a “de-escalation zone” in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, saying that they will deploy military observers on the borders of the area.The announcement was made on Friday in the latest round of talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana, where discussions have been held periodically since January. However, the three countries — who have previously declared the observer proposal — gave few details of the supposed breakthrough, and said some issues are to be worked out.

The Assad regime put out different signals over the initiative. Its negotiator, UN Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari praised successful talks. But Bashar al-Assad’s senior aide Bouthaina Shaaban said attempts to divide Syria had failed and reiterated the regime’s declaration that it will reclaim the entire country, including “Idlib and other areas”.

Ja’afari also hinted that Idlib could not remain outside regime control, insisting that the three powers “are concerned with preserving Syria’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence”. At the same time he expressed doubts about Turkey, which had supported opposition elements throughout Syria’s 79-month conflict — Russia and Iran, both essential allies of the regime, “have to monitor the commitment of the Turkish side”, he said. The Astana trio denied that they were partitioning Syria. They said the zones of deployment would be temporary, although they may be extended beyond the initial six-month period.Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentiev said each of the three countries will dispatch about 500 observers, with the Russian contingent consisting of military policemen. He said locations had yet to be determined.

The Russian envoy also said Moscow, Iran, and Tehran have started discussing the establishment of “national reconciliation committees”, continuing this in late October.