Mattis: US reviewing Syria safe zones but has many questions

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Syria's foreign minister Walid al-Moallem says no foreign forces will be allowed to monitor the "de-escalation" agreement in four zones around Syria in another effort to end the long civil war.

"There will be no presence by any global forces supervised by the United Nations", foreign minister Walid Al Moallem said in Damascus.

Russian Federation wants the United Nations Security Council to endorse an agreement reached in the Kazakh capital of Astana last week to establish "de-escalation zones" in Syria, but several council members say they need more information before they can back the deal aimed at bolstering a ceasefire.

Syria's foreign minister said on May 8 that Russian troops, not UN-supervised global forces, will enforce the cease-fire in safe zones established under a Russian-led agreement.

Mattis was circumspect when asked if the plan had any hope of ending the brutal civil war that has killed some 400,000 people and displaced almost half of the country's population since 2011.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

The new deal was penned by Turkey, which backs the opposition, as well as Rssia and Iran, which both support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Muallem also said that Damascus considered the deployment of Jordanian forces in southern Syria an act of aggression, but added that Syria was not about to confront Jordan.

Japan and Sweden have requested a UN Security Council meeting, likely to be held this week, to obtain specific details on how the zones will work.

The whole point of the safe zones is to put demilitarized areas between factions fighting one another to try to slow the war, and this would mean effectively that all combatant forces are to be kept out of the zone, including USA troops and warplanes.

A Russian Federation proposed "safe zone" plan to de-escalate the conflict in Syria went into effect on May 6, 2017. And he suggested that it's still not clear what effect the plan could have on the US -led fight against Islamic State militants.

The aircraft safety memorandum was signed in October 2015 after Russian Federation began bombing targets in Syria to support Syrian government forces in their fight against Islamic State and other armed groups. They discussed developments in Syria, including a Russian-proposed plan for "safe zones" that went into effect on Saturday.

Asked about USA backing for Kurdish groups fighting Islamic State in northeast Syria, he said that what Syrian Kurds were doing against the jihadist group was "legitimate" at this stage and fell within the framework of preserving Syrian unity. At the same time, there has been some speculation that the ceasefires could enable the government to redirect forces to the fight against ISIS in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, which has been besieged by the extremists for several years now. Despite several rounds of United Nations -mediated negotiations in Geneva, the government and opposition remain at odds over Assad's future role in Syria.

That is why we hope to confirm that the main outcome of the negotiations in Astana is to establish conditions to end the conflict in a great part of Syria, he said. And a member of the rebel delegation to the talks said the opposition was 'recording violations of the deal committed by the regime and its militias.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces were clashing with rebels in the central province of Hama, dropping barrel bombs and firing artillery at opposition-held villages there.