Syria will abide by "de-escalation" plan - foreign minister

A spokesman for the United Nations special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, declined to comment on the minister's remarks.

Last week, Russia, Turkey and Iran signed during the Astana talks on a Syrian settlement a memorandum to establish four safe zones in the country.

“As for [the coalition] actions in the de-escalation zones, starting from now those zones are closed for their flights, ” Aleksandr Levrentyev told journalists in the Kazakh capital.

The meeting, which is likely to be held this week, would help council members decide on whether to endorse the deal signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

The establishment of safe zones is the latest worldwide attempt to reduce violence amid a six-year civil war that has left more than 400,000 dead, and is the first to envisage armed foreign monitors on the ground in Syria.

Muallem on Monday said there could be a role "as the Russian guarantor has said, for military police", but it was unclear if he was referring to Syrian or foreign units.

Syrian government warplanes could be heard from Eastern Ghouta around midday, according to an AFP correspondent in the rebel-held town of Douma.

The deal calls for continued fighting against ISIS and the former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. "The de-escalation zones are meant to shore up a partial cessation of hostilities brokered by Russian Federation and Turkey at the end of previous year, which both sides have accused each other of violating repeatedly", the BBC reports.

The Syrian foreign minister also pointed to the U.S. administration's apparent change of approach towards Syria, saying, "It seems the United States, where (President Donald) Trump has said the Syrian crisis has dragged on too long, might have come to the conclusion that there must be an understanding with Russian Federation on a solution". Damascus has accepted the de-escalation plan but insists government forces will continue to battle "terrorism".

"More than a year ago, Russian Federation partnered with the broker a similar truce".

Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to a cease-fire between Syrian government and opposition forces in four undecided locations. It also set out to allow greater humanitarian access. But with Al-Qaida present throughout many rebel-held areas, the airstrikes slowly ramped up again. But aid convoys were only being allowed in at the rate of one per week, with no permission letters coming from the government. He posed several questions that needed to be answered including "who is going to be ensuring they're safe?"

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.

"Perhaps the most notable part of the deal is its bare bones focus on dampening hostilities".

World powers are hoping success on the ground could pave the way for a new round of political talks in Geneva this month. "The Astana track represents a depoliticized truce attempt - further acknowledgement that Assad's fate may be off the table", said NPR reporter Alison Meuse.

The US will thoroughly examine Russian proposal to create four safe zones in Syria, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, adding that Washington now has a number of unanswered questions regarding the initiative.

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