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Russia, Turkey, Iran Agree On Borders Of Syrian 'De-Escalation Zones'


Aleksandr Lavrentyev (center), Russia's chief negotiator at the Syrian peace talks in Astana, speaks to the press on September 14.

Russia, Iran, and Turkey have agreed at peace talks in Kazakhstan to place observers on the border of a de-escalation zone in Syria for at least six months.

The announcement comes as part of a broader plan under which Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara will create four zones in different parts of Syria, a move some critics called a de facto partitioning of the war-torn country.

The zones will include, either fully or partly, Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside, and the provinces of Idlib, Homs, Latakia, Aleppo, and Hama. The six-month term could be extended in the future.

Russian negotiator Aleksandr Lavrentyev said the trio will each send about 500 observers to Idlib, and that the Russians will serve as a military police force.

"Observers from these three countries will be deployed at check and observation points in safe zones that form the borders of the de-escalation zone," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement after two days of talks in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.

Russia, Turkey, and Iran are sponsors of the Astana talks on Syria, which are separate from United Nations-sponsored talks in Geneva.

The three countries signed a memorandum in May that called for the creation of the four de-escalation zones.

Russia has moved to establish three of them and there has since been a drop in violence between combatants.

But differences over the borders of the fourth proposed de-escalation zone have prevented the signing of a formal agreement on the creation of all four zones.

The U.S. State Department has said that Washington "remains concerned with Iran's involvement as a so-called 'guarantor' of the Astana process."

The U.S. government is concerned about calls for Iranian forces to also be deployed as cease-fire monitors.

It says Iran's "activities in Syria and unquestioning support" for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government "have perpetuated the conflict and increased the suffering of ordinary Syrians."

Some Syrian opposition fighters also have rejected the idea of Iranian forces being given a role as cease-fire monitors, saying they are not neutral forces.

With reporting by Reuters, Anadolu, Yeni Safak, AP, AFP, Kazinform, TASS, Izvestia, Interfax, and RIA Novosti
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