If there was any doubt the Russians are now leading diplomatic efforts on Syria, the latest round of Astana talks made it abundantly clear. On May 4, Russia reached an agreement with Turkey and Iran to create safe zones — “de-escalation zones,” in the parlance — beginning at midnight the following day. Located in Idlib, northern Homs countryside, Eastern Ghouta, and in southern Syria, these zones will supposedly see ceasefires enforced by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the signatory “guarantor states.” Opposition representatives refused the deal, and even if they had agreed, the plan would have little hope of success. Yet despite its all-but-inevitable failure, this agreement can serve as a framework for a future settlement.
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