Russia’s plan to establish internationally patrolled safe zones in Syria appears to have lost some support from the Syrian government Monday.
Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters the Syrian government rejects any role for international forces in patrolling potential safe zones. “We do not accept a role for the United Nations or international forces to monitor the agreement,” he declared.
The plan is a result of Russian-brokered peace talks in Kazakhstan, which are cosponsored by the Turkish and Iranian governments. The plan called for the creation of four different safe zones inside Syria, which would be jointly controlled by the Syrian Arab Army and some rebel groups. The plan stipulates that all parties will not be allowed to use violence inside the zones including airstrikes.
Russia appeared to try and extend this ban on airstrikes to the United States, which did not sign the agreement. Russia’s special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, 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. rejected this agreement saying it “makes no sense” Friday. Secretary of Defense James Mattis expanded on the U.S. position saying several questions remain as to whether the U.S. will be party to the agreement. “It’s all in process right now,” Mattis said of the proposal. He posed several questions that needed to be answered including “who is going to be ensuring they’re safe? Who is signing up for it? Who is specifically to be kept out of them? All these details are to be worked out and we’re engaged.”
“The devil is always in the details, right?” Mattis continued. “So we have to look at the details, see if we can work them out, see if we think they’re going to be effective.” But he added: “I think the international community is united in the sense of wanting to see ISIS put on its back foot.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is visiting Washington, D.C., Wednesday to visit with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a likely attempt get U.S. approval. The state department previewed their conversation in a statement on the meeting saying the two intend “to discuss efforts to de-escalate violence, provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and set the stage for a political settlement of the conflict.”
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