[A similar and briefer article was first published in Inside Syria Media Center]
Following the results of the fourth round of Syrian talks in Astana the representatives of guarantor-states, Iran, Russia and Turkey signed a memorandum on de-escalation in a diplomatic effort to bring peace to war-torn Syria.
According to the agreement, "de-escalation zones" of the slaughter in Syria are to be created in the provinces of Idlib, Hama, Aleppo, northern part of Homs, Eastern Ghouta, Daraa and Quneitra for six months, with the option of further prolongation.
Russia Today (RT) reported that the UN special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, welcomed the deal, calling it "an important, promising, positive step in the right direction in the process of de-escalation of the conflict."
"Unfortunately, the Americans are still ignoring our attempts to establish closer military cooperation, but we will keep trying," the Russian chief negotiator said. Nor are the U.S. backed Islamic groups interested in peace, instead they are being intransigent to a U.S. policy that 'Assad has to go'. "We saw several members of the opposition delegation stand up furiously condemning what was going on," Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Astana, said.
The memorandum, which came into effect on May 5, envisages the cessation of hostilities between the sides, creating conditions for the safe return of refugees, restoring destroyed vital urban infrastructure and providing safe access for humanitarian organizations to deliver aid to those made homeless and refuges by the war.
Moreover, checkpoints would be established to facilitate the movement of civilians and create a ceasefire regime along the de-escalation zone borders. This was one of the objections that U.S. backed Islamic militants complained about, saying it would "hinder" the movement of their fighters.
The memorandum of agreement does not apply to the terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists, it doesn't depend on whether they are inside a zone or not.
Press TV reported that "Russia says the de-escalation zones agreed to be formed in four conflict zones across Syria will be closed for warplanes of the US and its coalition allies." The airspace will be also controlled by the guarantor-states.
The treaty caused positive reaction of the world community. In general, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highly appreciates the achievement of the guarantor-states. He also believes, that the memorandum should really improve the citizens' lives.
The head of the Syrian delegation in Astana Bashar Jaafari expressed gratitude to the efforts of Kazakhstan, Iran and Russia, as the memorandum opens new opportunities for the political settlement of the crisis. Even Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir supports the creation of de-escalation zones.
Unfortunately, during the signing of memorandum a number of the opposition delegates opposed the peacekeeping initiatives. The actual initiatives of the opposition are unknown. As a mark of protest, a number of the opposition delegates decided to leave the room, referring that the adoption of the document violates the territorial integrity of Syria. In addition, the armed opposition insists that Iran can't be a guarantor state and they don't adduce any weighty arguments.
It sounds strange that the opposition has rejected the memorandum. The primary target of guarantor states' initiative is the protection of civilians, and as it is temporary, it won't affect Syria's sovereignty. This was an opportunity missed for the U.S. backed armed opposition to show to the world community that they are interested in a diplomatic settlement of the crisis. This makes it hard to distinguish the difference, if any, between U.S. backed "moderate" opposition from ISIS or Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
The guarantor nations Iran, Russia and Turkey have taken the initiative, as has the Syrian government to bring an end to the war that is a heavy burden for the country in which innocent people keep dying and the civilian infrastructure is being completely destroyed.
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