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Syria FM Rejects UN Monitors For 'De-Escalation' Deal

10 May 2017

Syria's foreign minister said today that his government would abide by the terms of a Russian plan for "de-escalation" zones so long as rebels also observed it.

He said his country opposed the presence of foreign forces, which were backers to the rebels, noting that Russian Federation is on the same page with Damascus in that regard.

"No role of the United Nations or worldwide powers in these areas.The Russian side made it clear that only (foreign) military police will be deployed, and monitoring center will be set up", he said.

The minister gave no details on who would make up that police force.

Al-Moallem also vowed that Syrian government forces would respond "decisively" to any violation or attack from the opposition's side. "So we'll look at the proposal and see if it can work".

The nationwide Syrian ceasefire regime was introduced on December 30, 2016, with Russia, Iran and Turkey serving as its guarantors.

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"We do not accept a role for the United Nations or worldwide forces to monitor the agreement", he said while reiterating the government's commitment to the deal.

The deal, the details of which are expected to be worked out over the next month, had been brokered between Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation, which proposed it. Russian Federation and Iran are closely allied to embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The United States is not party to the de-escalation agreement.

The U.S.is still reviewing Russia's plans to impose no-fly zones over parts of Syria, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters Monday.

"The devil is always in the details, so we are going to have to look at the details, see if we can work them out, see if we think they are going to be effective", Mattis said. "Will it affect the fight against ISIS? I think the global community is united in the sense of wanting to see ISIS put on its back foot", Mattis said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

The agreement would initially last six months but could be extended by the guarantors.

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But Russia has so far refused to accept western calls for Assad to stand aside as a precondition of a political transition. Similar surrender deals in exchange for safe passage from rebel-held Damascus neighborhoods are expected.

Russia, the main ally of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and principal author of the agreement, had suggested when it was announced last week that outside powers could play a monitoring role.

In Idlib province in particular, Fateh al-Sham is a major component of the militant forces that control the area.

Al-Moallem said the government's alternative to stalled negotiations has been the implementation of "reconciliation agreements" around the country.

Meanwhile on Monday, the evacuation of fighters and their families from the eastern outskirts of Damascus began, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The development is the latest in a series of population transfers in the war-torn country over the past year.

Tens of thousands of people living in besieged areas around Damascus, Homs and Aleppo — Syria's largest city — have surrendered under similar agreements in recent months, agreeing to relocate in what critics have said amounts to forced displacement.

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Syria FM Rejects UN Monitors For 'De-Escalation' Deal