May 5 (UPI) — Russia said aircraft in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State will be prohibited from operating above the planned “de-escalation zones” in Syria.
Alexander Lavrentyev, the head of Russia’s delegation in peace talks and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Syria, said the issue of whether aircraft can operate in the safe zones is “off the table.”
“The case is that in the de-escalation zones, the work of aviation, especially the coalition forces, is absolutely not envisaged, with or without notification,” Lavrentyev said.
Russia proposed the “de-escalation zones,” agreed to by Turkish leaders, which acted as a guarantor for a rebel coalition of forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, agreed to the deal Thursday, but members of the opposition delegation walked out on the talks rather than sign the deal.
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 agreement would create four cease-fire zones in northern Syria where fighting would stop by Saturday to provide civilians a place to gather to escape the violence and receive food and medical attention.
“The only place where the coalition’s aviation can operate is certainly on targets of the Islamic State. The aviation is located in the area of concentration of forces of this group near Raqqa and other settlements, near the Euphrates and Deir ez-Zor,” Lavrentyev added. “As for their actions in the de-escalation zones, currently all of them are closed for their flights.”
Both Assad’s regime and the rebel opposition have ignored previous cease-fire agreements. The “de-escalation zone” agreement does not include the Islamic State.
Eric DuVall contributed to this report.