A convoy of UN and Red Crescent humanitarian aid stands still in Syria. Photo: UN WFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The three guarantors of previously failed Syrian ceasefire talks — Iran, Turkey, and Russia — have signed an agreement on Thursday to establish four “de-escalation zones" for the war-torn country.
A statement from the Turkish foreign ministry stated they “welcome this memorandum” because it will stop airstrikes and allow “urgent and uninterrupted humanitarian aid to the region.”
Areas mentioned in the Turkish foreign ministry statement included Idlib, Lazkiye, Aleppo, Hamma, Homs, Deraa, Kuneytra provinces, as well as the Damascus/East Guta area.
“Details and arrangements regarding the boundaries and functioning of conflict zones will be set forth in the working group to be established between the three guarantor countries in the upcoming period,” read the Turkish ministry statement.
Syria's SANA news agency reported that the government delegation head Bashar al-Jafaari "praised" the signing of the document and called it an "achievement" and a "qualitative step."
SANA added that Jaafari looked forward to meeting with Russia and Iran "explore the details of the document as soon as possible with Damascus."
The Russian delegate Alexander Lavrentyev said at a press conference that the Syrian government will abide by the agreement unless attacks are carried out by rebel groups in those areas, the Associated Press reported.
A brief statement on the Iranian foreign ministry website also announced the signing of the document of “zones to reduce tensions in Syria.”
A member of the Syrian opposition shouted as he left the room that they did not accept Iranian guarantees.
"Iranians are criminals; they do not sign [the document]. Iranians are criminals, we do not accept their guarantees," he shouted.
It was reported by AFP news agency on Wednesday that "the rebel delegation is suspending the meetings because of the violent air strikes on civilians.”
The UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura had urged “all in Astana to press ahead [on Thursday] with de-escalation discussions and confidence-building measures.”
Iran and Russia have been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s primary backers. Turkey has supported the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in northern Syria.
The guarantors started the Astana process in January after a December 30 ceasefire was agreed upon, but bombings continued, and humanitarian assistance has been difficult to deliver to many places of the war-torn country.
“The UN has not reached any part of eastern Ghouta since October last year,” said Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General on May 1.
Dujarric added that should the pause be established and abided by all parties to the conflict, the UN stands ready to immediately deliver life-saving assistance to those in need.
He also announced that UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley is visiting Lebanon and Syria through 3 May – his first visit since taking office last month. And he is expected to meet Syrians affected by the ongoing crisis to witness the profound humanitarian crisis first-hand.
Representatives from United States, the UN and Jordan attended the fourth round of Astana talks in the Kazakh capital on May 3-4 as observers.