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By Saagar Enjeti
A draft proposal from Russian brokered peace talks in Syria that now include the U.S. would divide the country into four safe zones, reports The New York Times.
The proposal includes 4 safe zones for different territories controlled by different rebel groups and the Assad regime. Each zone would have jointly controlled checkpoints to allow the free flow of humanitarian aid and civilians. By joining the proposal the rebel groups would agree to jointly target al-Qaida and Islamic State forces that remain in heavy numbers throughout the country.
President Donald Trump spoke Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Syrian conflict. Trump and 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,” said a White House readout of the phone call.
The phone call also “included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons,” and Trump agreed to send a U.S. representative to the Russian peace talks Wednesday. Previous iterations of the talks did not include a U.S. representative, and the move could signal the Trump administration’s willingness to bring an end to the conflict through the Russian brokered process.
“We as guarantors — Turkey, Iran, Russia — will do everything for this to work,” Putin said after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday. Turkey and Iran are also guarantors of the talks, while the U.S. appears to be participating in a lesser role.
Several obstacles, however, remain for the proposal, including whether Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad will agree to it. Assad has long maintained he will retake the entire country, and may not want to allow even temporary rebel control.
Some Rebel groups also suspended their role in the talks citing vicious Syrian and Russian bombing of civilian populations, including hospitals. “Russian airstrikes also targeted local civilian infrastructure from April 4 – 25, including hospitals, schools, mosques, and civil defense centers across Syria,” The Institute for the Study of War noted Monday.