Syria fighting eases as safe zones plan begins

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Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem insisted the Assad regime would not accept global forces acting as "buffer zones" between rebel fighters and government troops, a key part of the agreement signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey in Astana last week.

He added that there would be no role for either the United Nations or other "international forces" in the de-escalation zones, but said without giving further details that Russian Federation had said military police would play an observer role.

The safe or de-escalation zones in Syria, which were agreed upon by Russia, Turkey and Iran, came into force on Friday, with the United States not a part of the deal.

Opposition leaders distanced themselves from the plan, saying they cant accept Iran as a guarantor of the truce and that they want “clear and tangible” guarantees the deal will be enforced.

But he added that Russian Federation, as guarantor of the agreement, said there would be "military police and observation centers".

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It provides for a ceasefire, rapid deliveries of humanitarian aid and the return of refugees after the creation of "de-escalation zones" across stretches of eight Syrian provinces.

"And we've been looking, for a long time, how to bring this one to an end", Mattis said of the fighting that has been raging since 2011 and killed more than 400,000 people.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

The new deal was penned by Turkey, which backs the opposition, as well as Russian Federation and Iran, both supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There's also a proposal to deploy third-party monitoring forces. "We need a lot more detail", said a council diplomat. It calls on Syrian forces and rebels to reduce their fighting in the special zones. And he suggested that it's still not clear what effect the plan could have on the USA -led fight against Islamic State militants.

The Trump White House has expressed support for Syrian safe zones, saying the measure would be invaluable to the thousands of Syrian civilians caught between the coalition offensive against ISIS and the ongoing civil war between anti-government forces and forces loyal to Mr. Assad. They discussed developments in Syria, including a Russian-proposed plan for "safe zones" that went into effect on Saturday.

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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said hundreds are expected to leave Barzeh, with around 1,500 expected to leave on Monday and more in the coming weeks.

Mattis said it's not clear yet what effect the zones - in Idlib province, north Homs province, the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus and parts of Syria's southern provinces - could have on the US -led coalition's fight against ISIS.

Syrian state TV said rebels shelled the central government-held town of Mahrade but had no immediate word on casualties.

That is why we hope to confirm that the main outcome of the negotiations in Astana is to establish conditions to end the conflict in a great part of Syria, he said.

The latest initiative signed in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, calls for the establishment of four zones patrolled by foreign forces - possibly including Iranian troops - in the northwestern Idlib province, Homs province in the west, the East Ghouta suburb of the capital Damascus and southern Syria.

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