The Astana Breakthrough

Memorandum on establishing de-escalation zones in Syria signed

The fourth round of talks on Syria, key members of which are Russia, Iran, and Turkey, finished in Astana on May 4, 2017. The difference from Astana-format talks in Geneva is the leading negotiators are countries with real influence on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The talks on Syria ended by an unexpected breakthrough and the adoption of a document paving the way for establishing peace in the war-torn country. The signed document notes the four de-escalation zones: Idlib province, north of the city of Homs, Eastern Ghouta, and the south of Syria.

Ceasefire guarantor states Russia, Iran, and Turkey will take under control escalation management process, making decisions by consensus. The document provides the creation of special checkpoints for movement of civilians, humanitarian aid convoys, and the return of refugees, and observation points to comply with the ceasefire accord. Military contingents also might be deployed along the lines of demarcation.

The signed Memorandum can be considered as an important diplomatic step, which allows Russia to seize the US initiative for the establishment of security zones in Syria and implement this idea together with two influential regional countries. Thus, there is a strengthening of Turkey-Iran-Russia triangle as the main centre for decision-making with regard to Syria.

The fact that the Syrian opposition declared on its rejection of any agreement that Iran has a role in as a guarantor darkens the overall positive image. This problem has still not been solved yet. In particular, the quantitative and ethnic composition of the armed forces, which become the guarantor of security in safe zones, will be agreed. In this connection, Chairperson of the Council of the Federation Committee on Defense and Security V. Ozerov noted that the Russian military police could enter de-escalation zones.

There is no doubt that the expansion of regional cooperation between Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara is a long-overdue decision, which meets the national interests of all three countries, and can have a positive effect not only in relation to the Syrian crisis, but also in other areas.

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