The Russian government is attempting to bar the U.S. from most of Syria’s airspace in its latest effort to implement a ceasefire in the Syrian civil war, a senior diplomat told reporters attending the ceasefire conference Friday in Kazakhstan.
Russia’s special envoy to Syria Aleksandr Lavrentiev said the U.S. led international coalition against ISIS would only be allowed to strike ISIS’s capital along with “some populated areas in the area of the Euphrates, Deir al-Zour and further on the Iraqi territory.” He emphatically declared, “The work of aviation, especially the forces of the international coalition, is absolutely not envisaged. With notification or without notification, this issue is now closed.”
The U.S. government has not yet responded to Russia’s declaration, but a representative did attend recent ceasefire talks May 3 and 4. Lavrentiev’s comments indicate Russia does not want the U.S. to continue its operations in other parts of the country. The New York Times noted that the U.S. conducts airstrikes in non-listed areas against al-Qaida affiliates.
The Russian government appeared to imply that Russian, Turkish, and Syrian regime planes would remain grounded as well. The only exception to the grounding are operations against ISIS and other jihadist groups. Russia and the Syrian regime routinely label anybody opposing the Assad regime as terrorist as a pretense to strike them. Both parties also have a consistent history of violating nearly all ceasefire’s they’ve been party too throughout the civil war.
Russia’s no-fly declarations are part of a broader push to create four de-facto safe zones inside Syria that would be jointly controlled by the Syrian regime and rebel groups. President Donald Trump discussed the plan with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Tuesday phone call where the discussion “included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons.”
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