After reaching an agreement in Astana, Kazakhstan on the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria, Turkey, Russia and Iran announced the decision to deploy observers to monitor the implementation of the deal.
“Observers from the three states will be deployed at the checkpoints and observation posts to be established in the security zones which will constitute the borders of the de-escalation area,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Experts and diplomats from the three countries held two-day meetings in the Kazakh capital to finalize the technical details of the framework.
“The principal task of the observer forces is defined as to prevent the occurrence of hostilities between the regime and the opposition as well as to monitor any ceasefire violations,” the ministry said.
The zones will include areas in Eastern Ghouta and the provinces of Idlib, Homs, Latakia, Aleppo and Hama, the three sides said in a joint statement on Friday.
Turkey said the declaration of the Idlib de-escalation zone “constitutes the final state” in the implementation of the memorandum signed by the parties in May, and the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the deal significantly contributes to the preparation of conditions on the ground necessary to advance the U.N.-mediated political process in Geneva.
“Three already existing de-escalation zones in Syria (S-W, east Ghouta and northern Homs) are very much functional and do reflect dynamic on the ground,” Alexey Khlebnikov, a political analyst at Russian International Affairs Council and Russia Center of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Globe Post.
“Establishment of these zones indicates that in general, such approach is supported by all parties involved in the process. Otherwise, we wouldn’t see a significant decrease in violence,” Mr. Khlebnikov added.
Turkey has been an ardent supporter of rebels in Syria, while Russia and Iran staunchly backed the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Russian air support and Iranian financial assistance have proven to be a vital factor for the survival of the embattled Assad government throughout the six-year long war.
The fall of Idlib into the hands of al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, prompted the international community, and the three countries in particular, to come up with a plan to address the threat over fears the province could become an incubator for jihadists or gathering point for Islamic State fighters after the fall of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. The presence of Nusra (now called Jabhat Fatah Al Sham) in Idlib directly threatens Alevis in Latakia as well as the Turkish border areas.
“Obviously, each actor pursues its own interests in Syria. However, things on the ground do not allow everyone to act as they want,” Mr. Khlebnikov said. He added that the battlefield realities impacted the bargaining positions of the negotiating sides.
“Syria’s military successes with the help of Russia gave Damascus and Moscow an upper hand in negotiations which gives them an opportunity to fulfill their interests,” he said.