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Iran, Russia, Turkey sign deal to set up safe zones in Syria

Turkey, Iran and Russia, the three countries behind peace efforts in Syria, have signed a memorandum on creating de-escalation zones in Syria.

According to Press TV, the deal was signed during the fourth round of the Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Moscow put forward the idea of setting up safe zones in four areas in northern, central and southern Syria, where the most intense fighting is underway between the Syrian government and different militant groups.

The Russian proposal seeks to “put an immediate end to the violence” gripping Syria and “provide the conditions for the safe, voluntary return of refugees,” AFP reported, citing a version of the initiative provided by a source close to the opposition.

As the agreement was reached, some members of the Syrian opposition delegation shouted in protest and walked out of the Astana talks.

The opposition had suspended its participation in the negotiations on Wednesday, but returned to the talks on Thursday.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov announced that the fifth round of the Astana negotiations would be held in mid-July.

Earlier on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov underlined the importance of the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria, saying the initiative could serve as a key step to reinforce the ceasefire in the Arab country.

“A relatively new idea is being discussed in Astana: the formation of de-escalation zones in Syria with the participation of all interested parties and of course the consent of the Syrian government, which should be an important step toward strengthening the ceasefire,” he said after talks with his Finnish counterpart, Timo Soini, in Porvoo.

Turkish President Rajab Tayyib Erdoghan speaking to Turkish reporters while flying back from the Black Sea resort of Sochisaid on Thursday said that if the idea of creating “safe zones is implemented, then 50 percent of the Syrian issue can be solved.”