Reuters

Country Reports

De-escalation zones in Syria

by Gregor Jaecke, David Labude

Background and status quo of a paradox. In fact, the protection for the Syrian population that had been promised when the zones had been created was not provided at any time.

In May 2017, as part of the Astana peace talks, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed on the establishment of four so-called de-escalation zones in Syria. These zones were designed to be areas in which all hostilities should cease and in which civilians should be protected from attacks. The deal had been preceded by a massive deployment of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, followed by increasing international pressure on Syria and its ally Russia.

Three of these safe zones no longer exist today. The last one that remains, in Idlib, is under heavy pressure after severe recent fighting. In actual fact, the protection for the Syrian population that had been promised when the zones had been created was not provided by this agreement at any time. The establishment of these zones did not contribute to the peace process in Syria and, therefore, to ending the war.

It is worthwhile, however, to take a closer look at how this agreement was reached and how the four zones have developed in order to identify the failures of the various international actors. These failures could defeat hopes for finding a solution for the plight of the Syrian refugees for decades. Resolving this issue will crucially depend on whether Europe and the United States (US) will become more engaged in Syria in the future and whether they will be more successful in exerting political and economic pressure on the regime and its allies – mainly Russia.

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