Russia wants quick UN vote for Syria 'de-escalation zones'

'Staged' videos shot in Syria to show shelling aftermath — Russian reconciliation center

'Staged' videos shot in Syria to show shelling aftermath — Russian reconciliation center

Syria's foreign minister said today that his government would abide by the terms of a Russian plan for "de-escalation" zones so long as rebels also observed it.

"We do not accept a role for the United Nations or worldwide forces to monitor the agreement", Mr. Moallem told reporters. A senior Russian diplomat, Aleksandr Lavrentiev, said on Friday that the agreement would effectively stop American warplanes from flying in Syria's airspace.

The minister gave no details on who would make up that police force.

"We'll look at the proposal, see if it can work", Mattis as he arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark on Sunday for talks with other members the US-led anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) coalition.

Russia, Turkey and Iran signed the deal last week in Astana, Kazakhstan. There are still questions about how it will be enforced.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, Wednesday in Washington to "discuss Ukraine, Syria and bilateral issues", according to a State Department release.

Global forces under the leadership of the United Nations or Russia "will not be deployed" in the four de-escalation zones that are to be created in western Syria under Friday's agreement between Russia, Iran and Turkey, the Syrian government said on Monday.

When reporters pressed Mattis about the plan he said: "The devil's always in the details, right?"

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Copenhagen, he suggested that it's still not yet clear what impact the plan could have on the US -led fight against Islamic State group militants.

Relations between Washington and Ankara, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, in the ongoing fight against ISIS in Syria are at a historical low point due to US support for Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG. But he added: "I think the worldwide community is united in the sense of wanting to see ISIS put on its back foot".

Russia, which along with Iran is an ally of the Syrian government, signed the agreement with rebel supporter Turkey as a key step to unwinding over six years of violence that has cost more than 320,000 lives.

That is why we hope to confirm that the main outcome of the negotiations in Astana is to establish conditions to end the conflict in a great part of Syria, he said.

Over 320,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 following peaceful demonstrations against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. He said the government aims to regain control of all of Syria, adding that areas bordering Iraq will be a priority.

Al-Moallem reiterated his country's backing of the deal, but vowed to retaliate "harshly" any violation by the rebels.

Such agreements have seen the surrender of rebel-held areas to government forces and their allies, often after a prolonged period of siege, in exchange for safe relocation to opposition-held areas elsewhere in the country.

Meanwhile Monday, the first wave of rebel fighters and their families evacuated the Barzeh district of Damascus under a surrender agreement reached with the government.

According to a report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced almost half of the country's pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.

Tens of thousands of people living in besieged areas around Damascus, Homs and Aleppo — Syria's largest city — have surrendered under similar agreements in recent months, agreeing to relocate in what critics have said amounts to forced displacement.

Moscow said Monday that the situation inside the safe zones was "stable".

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