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The New Arab

Russia seeks US coordination in Syria ceasefire efforts

Putin spoke with Trump on Tuesday to discuss the war in Syria. [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 May, 2017

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Putin spoke with US President Trump on Tuesday to push a plan to create security zones in Syria as opposition groups set to meet in Astana to discuss ceasefire.
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday to push a plan to create security zones and deploy peacekeepers in Syria as part of ceasefire efforts.

The phone call, the third between both leaders since Trump's inauguration, is the first time the leaders have spoken since the US struck a Syrian airbase in retaliation for Syria's chemical attack on a rebel-held town, killing 87 civilians, many of them children.

According to a White House readout of the conversation, the leaders discussed the war in Syria, attempts to de-escalate tensions in North Korea, and terrorism in the Middle East.

"President Trump and President Putin agreed that the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence," the White House release said.

Prior to the phone call, a Kremlin adviser said that Putin would discuss the creation of so-called 'security zones' in Syria with Trump.

The plan was presented to Syrian opposition groups in Ankara last week by Russia's Syrian envoy, Bloomberg reported, and would entail four buffer zones manned by Russian, Iranian, and Turkish troops, and potentially others.

President Trump and President Putin agreed that the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence

The "de-escalation zones" would be situated in rebel-held territory in the northwestern province of Idlib, in parts of Homs province in the centre, in the south, and in the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

Meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, Putin said that the creation of the so-called security zones would be hard to implement without US participation.

Talks in Astana

Delegations will discuss the Russian plan at peace talks in Kazakhstan which kicked off on Wednesday.

The designated zones would also see the immediate delivery of relief supplies and medical assistance. 

According to the draft, "security zones" would be created around them, with checkpoints and monitoring centres to be manned by government troops and rebel fighters.

A joint working group would be created within five days of the document being signed which will be charged with drafting maps of the zones by May 22 and also monitor a process of "disarmament." 

The Kazakh foreign ministry confirmed that the delegations were discussing a proposal for safe zones. 

"The document on the zones is being discussed now," ministry official Aidarbek Tumatov told the Interfax news agency.

"If the guarantor countries agree and sign the document then accordingly Damascus and the opposition will be obliged to fulfil it."

Syria's war has killed more than 320,000 people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Russia intervened in the Syrian war in 2015 to back its ally President Bashar al-Assad. Since the country's military involvement, Russia has been accused of war crimes by international human rights groups for deliberately targeting schools, hospitals and civilian homes.

In 2016, Amnesty International said Russia had committed some of the most "egregious war crimes" seen in decades.

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