Saturday, May 06, 2017

Syria safe zones closed to US-coalition jets

     Moscow, May 5 - Jets from the US-led coalition are barred from proposed safe zones in Syria set to be created under a deal inked by Russia, Iran and Turkey, Moscow's envoy said today.

    "In terms of their actions in the de-escalation zones then from this moment these zones are closed for their flights," the Kremlin's envoy to peace talks in Kazakhstan Alexander Lavrentiev was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

    "Aviation operations, especially by the international coalition forces, are absolutely not envisioned," he said.

    Regime backers Russia and Iran and rebel supporter Turkey on Thursday signed a deal at talks in Kazakhstan to set up four safe zones in the war-torn country.

    The agreement did not explicitly mention the US-led coalition, which has been targeting jihadists from the Islamic State group, but Lavrentiev insisted that "flights cease over these territories."
    "We as guarantors will closely monitor all operations," he said.

    Moscow's envoy said this means coalition air power can now only focus on "Islamic State targets that are located in the area of Raqa, some populated areas in the region of the Euphrates, Deir Ezzor and further on to the territory of Iraq."

    The exact boundaries of the proposed safe zones in Syria are yet to be defined but they are meant to focus on rebel- held territory.

    The United States gave an extremely cautious welcome to the deal, citing concerns over Iran's role as a guarantor, even as it expressed hope that the agreement could set the stage for a settlement.

    The limitations could throw up obstacles for any potential US operations in Syria in the future after President Donald Trump carried out Washington's first direct strike on the forces of Russian ally Bashar al-Assad last month over an alleged chemical weapons attack.

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