Syria 'safe zones' come into effect but fighting continues

The Latest: International probe of sarin attack underway

The Latest: International probe of sarin attack underway

In fact, the USA and Saudi Arabia have come out in support of the agreement, Reuters reports, as it doesn't interfere with the anti-ISIS efforts in the east for either Russian Federation or the US.

Lavrentyev added that planes from the USA -led coalition would still be allowed to operate against Islamic State targets in specific areas, but would be banned from entering "de-escalation zones", as would planes from all other air forces, including those of Russian Federation and Syria.

The plan is the latest worldwide attempt to reduce violence in war-ravaged Syria. Full details of Thursday's agreement have not yet been released.

The deal covers four areas: Idlib province in the north, where nearly a million displaced people are packed among rebel forces dominated by al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate; Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb where rebels threaten the government's complete control of the capital; sections of the central province of Homs in which the patchwork of rebel forces includes a small contingent of al-Qaeda militants; and a stretch of Syria's southern border with Jordan where the United States is supporting rebels against both Syrian forces and Islamic State militants.

The opposition was protesting Iran's participation at the conference and role as a guarantor of the agreement, accusing it of fueling the sectarian nature of the conflict that has killed some 400,000 people and displaced half the country's population.

What the deal does not cover are areas controlled by Islamic State group militants and US -backed Kurdish groups.

The walkout and the comments underline the huge difficulties of implementing such a deal.

Lt. General Sergei Rudskoi said that Syrian government forces will refrain from attacking rebel groups, including by air, if they're observing the truce in the so-called de-escalation zones, according to an emailed statement from the Defense Ministry in Moscow.

The plan's details will be worked out over the next several weeks.

"This leaves Tahrir al-Sham with every reason to rally opposition to the Astana deal and to torpedo it through bombings and other provocations", Syria analyst Aron Lund wrote in an article on Friday. But officials have expressed skepticism, stressing that safe zones have not had an encouraging track record.

Putin on Wednesday said he and U.S. President Donald Trump had a "very good" telephone conversation, adding that Trump agreed on Russia's safe zone proposal - though the White House only confirmed the two leaders discussed the zones. The Pentagon has said the de-escalation agreement will not affect its campaign against ISIS.

Russian officials on Friday warned USA military officials they can no longer fly aircraft over newly established safe zones in Syria. It also said it did not accept Iran as a guarantor of the deal.

"Iran's activities in Syria have only contributed to the violence, not stopped it, and Iran's unquestioning support for the Assad regime has perpetuated the misery of ordinary Syrians", spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

The United States and Russian Federation will resume an airspace deconfliction agreement aimed at avoiding mid-air collisions, Reuters reported Saturday. It is not yet clear how the new plan would affect flightpaths of US -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 deal calls for the establishment of four "de- escalation" zones across stretches of eight Syrian provinces.

The plan's details will be worked out over the next few weeks but the zones appear meant to halt conflict in specific areas between government forces and rebels, and would potentially be policed by foreign troops.

The second de-escalation zone is in the northern area of Homs province and includes the cities of Al-Rastan and Tel-Biss; a third zone is in eastern Ghouta; and a fourth zone is in southern Syria, on the borders of Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

It was not clear how a cease-fire over such a broad and logistically complicated area would be achieved, or whether global observers would be sent to Syria to monitor its implementation. "All Syrian flights over these areas will cease".

He emphatically declared, "The work of aviation, especially the forces of the global coalition, is absolutely not envisaged".

Rudskoi also told reporters that Russian Federation wanted to restore an agreement with the United States to coordinate air operations over Syria and reduce the risk of aircraft colliding.

Turkey, which supports Syrian rebel groups, agreed to act as a guarantor.

"If that happens, we would be looking at a more serious effort than anything in the past", Aron Lund, a Syria expert wrote in an article Friday. "When they stop, then we can work on political solutions".

The Observatory said government forces shelled and bombed the nearby town of Latamneh and surrounding areas.

Fighter jets fired at the rebel-held village of al-Zalakiyat and nearby positions in the northern Hama countryside, where the combatants exchanged shelling, the Britain-based war monitoring group said.

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