Russia: No final deal on Syria safe zones

ASTANA: Russia, Turkey and Iran failed at peace talks on Wednesday to hammer out details including the boundaries and policing of four safe zones in war-torn Syria, Moscow’s chief negotiator said.
Russian delegation head Alexander Lavrentiev said after the end of the latest two-day negotiations in Kazakhstan that documents outlining how the four zones should work “need finalising” despite being “essentially agreed” between the three key power brokers.
Moscow and Tehran, which back Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and rebel supporter Ankara agreed in May to establish four “de-escalation” zones in a potential breakthrough after more than six years of fighting that has claimed more than 320,000 lives.
While fighting dropped off in the weeks after the deal, it has ratcheted up in some areas since, and the international players have yet to finalise the boundaries of the zones or determine who will police them.
“We have not yet managed directly to establish the de-escalation zones,” Lavrentiev said, insisting however that “de-facto” safe areas already existed on the ground.
He added that there had been no definitive agreement over the contentious issue of “which specific forces” would police the zones.
A working meeting of representatives from Russia, Iran and Ankara is set to take place in Tehran at the start of August to help thrash out the remaining disagreements, Russian news agencies cited a joint statement as saying. Meanwhile, the next round of Syrian peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana will be held in the last week of August, Kazakh Foreign Minister, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, said on Wednesday.
“We are convinced that dialogue is the only solution to solve the Syrian crisis,” Abdrakhmanov said at the end of the fifth round of talks, according to a statement carried by the Syrian state news agency Sana.
The statement called for strengthening the system of cessation of hostilities in Syria.
Meanwhile Russian Foreign Minister Sergy Lavrov said on Wednesday that he hopes progress will be reached on agreeing on the borders and parameters of Syrian de-escalation zones.
“We hope that a real progress will be reached in terms of designating certain parameters, including geographic ones and those linked to ensuring the operation of de-escalation zones,” the Russian news agency Tass quoted Lavrov as saying.
Diplomats from Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the United States were participating in the talks along with UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura.
The Astana talks are sponsored by Russia and Iran, both supporters of President Bashar al Assad, as well as Turkey, which supports rebels fighting to oust al Assad.
Yahya al Aridi, an opposition figure close to the Astana talks, said that Wednesday’s talks are “bilateral meetings with the Russians and Turkish delegates.” — Agencies