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Assad Not Allowing UN to Monitor ‘De-Escalation Zones’ in Syria

A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on January 15, 2015 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad giving an interview to the Eterarna Novina Czech newspaper in Damascus. Coalition strikes against the Islamic State group are having no impact, Assad said in an interview, as members of …
AFP PHOTO/HO/SANA

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has decided not to let the United Nations (UN) nor any other oversight body to monitor the “de-escalation zones” he negotiated with Turkey and his allies Russia and Iran, declared the war-ravaged country’s foreign minister.

The declaration contradicts Russia, the main ally of Assad and principal author of the recently reached agreement, which had asserted there would be outside monitors.

Nevertheless, FM Walid al-Moallem told reporters, “We do not accept a role for the United Nations or international forces to monitor the agreement,” adding that the Assad regime army would “respond in a decisive manner” to violations.

Under the agreement, hostilities are supposed to be at the least paused for six months in the four “de-escalation zones,” prohibiting combatants from using weapons in the zones, including warplanes.

The primary purpose of de-escalation is supposed to be to allow humanitarian aid to flow through to civilians.

The News York Times (NYT) reports:

Russia has sent signals that it is hoping to gain support for the agreement from the United States despite their deep differences over the Syrian war, now in its seventh year.

Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia will meet with his American counterpart, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, in Washington on Wednesday to discuss Syria and other issues, both sides announced on Monday, marking the first the Russian FM visits the United States since Trump took office.

FM Lavrov will become the highest-ranking Kremlin official to visit Washington during Trump’s tenure.

“The de-escalation zones agreement, reached in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Thursday, is regarded as one of the more ambitious diplomatic undertakings by outside powers to halt the war, but it has also raised intense skepticism from insurgents and from some of their supporters, including the United States,” notes the Times.

“The State Department has expressed concern about the role of Iran in the agreement and the history of failed cease-fires in the war, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and left millions of Syrians displaced,” it adds.

Nevertheless, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has expressed what NYT describes as a “muted expression of support.”

“All wars eventually come to an end, and we’ve been looking for a long time how to bring this one to an end,” he recently told reporters. “So we’ll look at the proposal and see if it can work.”

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