Walid al-Moallem is a senior Syrian Baath party politician. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Weighing in on Turkey, Russia and Iran agreeing to establish de-escalation zones in war-torn Syria at peace talks in Astana last week, the Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Walid al-Moallem cautioned that Syrian government forces will decisively respond to violations.
“If any violation takes place, the Syrian army will be prepared to respond in a decisive manner,” Syrian state-run SANA news reported Moallem as saying in Damascus on Monday.
Russia, Iran and its proxies have been the Syrian regime’s prime backers. Moallem directed concern at the third leg of the tripartite, Turkey, which has been backing the rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“I don’t exclude the possibility of violating the memorandum of the de-escalation areas by Turkey which is one of the guarantor states who signed the memorandum,” said Moallem, who is also Foreign and Expatriates Minister.
Syrian opposition groups have often lacked unity that stretches beyond their dissatisfaction with the regime. At last week’s talks in the Kazakh capital, a member of the opposition member vehemently objected to Iran’s participation as a guarantor.
Moallem said that de-confliction agreement is in-line with the [failed] cessation of hostilities agreement signed last year.
“Of course, we look forward that this memorandum will achieve its intentions which are basically separating the armed groups which signed the agreement of the cessation of hostilities on 30/12/2016 from Jabhat al-Nusra and the ISIS and the other groups affiliated to them,” Moallem said.
The UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported continued strikes and fighting across the country including Eastern Ghouta, Aleppo and Idlib.
"The warplanes carried out several strikes targeting villages in the countryside of Maskanah town which is located in the eastern countryside of Aleppo," read one SOHR report without providing information about the casualties.
The United Nations Security Council president says Russia wants a vote early this week on a resolution supporting the deal.
The Associated Press reported that Uruguay's Ambassador Elbio Rosselli told reporters "there are consultations ongoing" on the text.
The US Secretary of Defense said his country is still focusing on ISIS, while not saying whether the the US or the international anti-ISIS coalition would avoid targeting ISIS within the framework of the new de-escalation agreement.
"We'll look at the proposal, see if it can work," James Mattis told reporters traveling with him to Copenhagen, where he will attend a meeting of the US-led coalition battling ISIS. "Will it affect the fight against ISIS? I think the international community is united in the sense of wanting to see ISIS put on its back foot."