United Nations chief hopes Syrian accord ends violence

Following on Thursday's signing of a deal to setup so-called "de-escalation zones" in Syria, the United Nations envoy for the war-torn country praised the agreement and said its success could bolster the path towards peace talks.

While details of the de-escalation agreement between the three guarantor parties have not been made public, expectations have been raised that it will lead to greater humanitarian access for the 6.3 million Syrians still living in the country.

As earlier was reported, on May 4 Russia, Turkey and Iran signed a memorandum on creation of de-escalation zones in Syria during "Astana-4" meeting's plenary session.

"Our Turkish counterparts also are the guarantors of the ceasefire so they should work effectively to ensure that the Syrian armed opposition abides by the memorandum signed by Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation", he said. The zones would be established for six months, with the possibility for extension, according to Alexander Lavrentiev, head of the Russian delegation.

Who controls what in Syria? The Russian government said it would abide by no-fly zones over the protected areas, though Russian war planes have frequently targeted opposition-held areas for bombing to help prop up Assad's government during the six-year civil war.

It remains unclear precisely how the guarantors will monitor compliance with what they are calling "de-escalation zones".

Opposition elements called the agreement a threat to the country's territorial integrity, rejecting Iran's role as a guarantor of any ceasefire plan.

The Syrian government and rebel delegations are not signatories to the agreement, which was signed by the talks' three sponsors.

There was no immediate comment from the United States, which sent an emissary to the Astana talks after a telephone conversation Tuesday between President Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation, who vowed to renew efforts to collaborate on ending the Syria conflict.

The Kazakhstan agreement calls for delineating zones where front lines between the Syrian government forces and the rebels would be frozen and fighting halted.

The first zone includes the whole of Idlib province along with certain parts of neighboring Latakia, Aleppo and Hama provinces.

Analysts say that Moscow could be pushing the Assad regime to de-escalate the conflict and agree to the plan.

Osama Abo Zayd, a spokesman for the Syrian military factions in Astana said the zones raise "a number of questions", adding that Moscow still has no answers on how to deal with any violations from its ally Damascus or from Iran, which has a number of fighters on the ground in Syria on the government's side.

The U.S., which was represented at the talks by Acting Assistant Secretary of State Stuart E. Jones, said it "appreciate [d] the efforts of Turkey and the Russian Federation to pursue this agreement".