Syria safe zones may allow terrorists to re-arm: USA senator

Russian mediator Alexander Lavrentiev Iranian deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura attend the signing of a memorandum on creating safe zones in Syria

Osama Abo Zayd, a spokesman for the Syrian military factions in Astana said the zones raise "a number of questions", adding that Moscow still has no answers on how to deal with any violations from its ally Damascus or from Iran, which has a number of fighters on the ground in Syria on the government's side. It is not yet clear how the new plan would affect flightpaths of USA -led coalition warplanes battling Islamic State militants and other radical groups - and whether the American air force would abide by a diminished air space.

The US State Department, which had only dispatched an observer to the talks, said it welcomed signing the memorandum but expressed concern about Iran's role.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are to enforce the zones, but Russian general staff official Col. -Gen.

The dominant Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies aim to deepen their autonomy through establishing a new system of federal government in the north.

Russia's plan for "de-escalation" zones was backed by Iran at the Kazakhstan talks. Syrian rebels said earlier on Thursday that they had resumed participation in the talks after having suspended their involvement a day earlier over air strikes against civilians.

The talks in Astana serve as a real opportunity to reduce the escalation of the conflict in Syria, according to the Special Envoy.

Also, prospects for the success of the deal - agreed on by Russia, Turkey and Iran - are undermined by the failure of Syrian rebel groups who oppose President Bashar Assad to sign on to it.

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Syria has been gripped by civil war since March 2011 with various terrorist groups, including Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL), controlling parts of it. According to the memorandum, since May 6 any clashes between government forces and armed groups will be ceased in these zones.

Russia's representative at the Syria talks says the "de-escalation zones" will be closed to military aircraft from the USA -led coalition. The UN has also been proactively supporting discussions in Astana regarding detainees and humanitarian demining.

According to a report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced almost half of the country's pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.

"On Thursday in Astana I think we have been able to witness an important, promising and positive step in the right direction in the process of de-escalation of the conflict", said Staffan de Mistura, who witnessed on Thursday's signing.

Putin is suggesting four safe zones initially, in Idlib Province, Homs Northern Suburbs, East Ghouta and South Syria.

Davis said he would not speculate on how the agreement could affect future USA air operations in Syria.

Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia's envoy to the peace talks in Kazakhstan, said Friday in remarks covered by Russian media that "the operation of aviation in the de-escalation zones, especially of the forces of the global coalition, is absolutely not envisaged, either with notification or without", he said.

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