Russia's plans to lead all the factions fighting in Syria to reach a negotiated peace settlement appear to have collapsed on Wednesday, when Russia, Turkey and Iran failed to agree on details of four "de-escalation zones" or "safe zones" proposed by Russia at a meeting in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan in Central Asia. Wednesday's meeting was based on a peace plan that was signed two months ago. Reuters and AFP
# Russia's four de-escalation zones in eastern Syria...
At that time I listed the reasons why it was farcical. The principal reason is that it didn't include the actual parties to the Syrian war, the Shia/Alawite regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad and the Sunni opposition. In fact, none of these actual participants in the war agreed to the terms of the agreement. That's why the talks on Wednesday collapsed.
The three countries (Russia, Iran, and Turkey) are supposed to be the "Guarantors" of the agreement, providing whatever troops are necessary for the functioning of the checkpoints and observation posts as well as the administration of the security zones.
News reports gave several reasons why the Astana peace talks collapsed on Wednesday:
- The Syrians and Russians blamed the Turks as being unwilling to agree to any implementation of the zones.
- Turkey and Iran were unable to agree on whose troops would be used to guarantee the safety of the safe zones.
- The moderate Sunni rebels said that they would refuse a proposal to have Iran monitor the safe zone in central Homs province.
- The United States and United Nations were purposely excluded from the Astana peace talks, but Russia now agrees that the United States and Jordan will have to be involved in some way to cover the zone in southern Syria.
- Russia also blames the failure of the talks on Wednesday on the United States, because of uncertainty about what Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will agree to when they meet at the G-20 summit in Hamburg on Friday. Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview on Monday the he would also discuss the issue with Putin at the G-20 summit.
# A new meeting of the three countries is to take place in Tehran on August 1-2, with a self-imposed deadline of the last week of August to work out all the details. Sputnik (Moscow) and VOA
*) The four de-escalation zones; The map of Syria above shows the four de-escalation zones on the left (western side) of the map of Syria appearing above. The four zones, taken together, are enclaves containing over 2.5 million Sunni civilians, mostly women and children, in areas controlled variously by al-Qaeda linked or moderate opposition rebels. These millions of civilians are people that al-Assad in the past has made clear that he wants to exterminate as if they were cockroaches, and so which is why neither Assad nor the the opposition rebels were willing to sign Russia's agreement.
Here are al-Jazeera's descriptions of the four zones:
Zone 1: Idlib province, as well as northeastern areas of Latakia province, western areas of Aleppo province and northern areas of Hama province. There are more than one million civilians in this zone and its rebel factions are dominated by an al-Qaeda-linked alliance.
Zone 2: The Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in northern Homs province. There are approximately 180,000 civilians in this zone and its network of rebel groups includes al-Qaeda-linked fighters.
Zone 3: Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside. Controlled by Jaish al-Islam, a powerful rebel faction that was participating in the Astana talks, it is home to about 690,000 civilians. This zone does not include the adjacent, government-besieged area of Qaboun.
Zone 4: The rebel-controlled south along the border with Jordan that includes parts of Deraa and Quneitra provinces. Up to 800,000 civilians live there.
There's little agreement among all the parties as to how the so-called "Guarantors" of de-escalation zones or safe zones are going to enforce the terms of the proposed agreement. Russia had announced on Tuesday that they would deploy the Russian military police carrying light weapons within two to three weeks, but that plan is now on hold after the peace talks collapsed on Wednesday.
Because of the difficulty in getting agreement on whose military forces will be occupying each of the safe zones, Russia has asked two Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, to send some of their own soldiers as peacekeepers.
However, Kazakhstan has already refused, saying that an essential condition for sending Kazakh peacekeepers is the existence of a UN Security Council resolution and the corresponding mandate of the UN.... Al-Jazeera, Sputnik News (Moscow) and Sputnik News