Russia says agrees to safe zone mechanism with Syrian rebels
A Syrian man walks down a destroyed street in a rebel-held area in Daraa on July 19. Photograph: (AFP)
Russia's defence ministry said Saturday that its officials had signed a deal with moderate Syrian rebels at peace talks in Cairo on how a safe zone near Damascus will function.
"As a result of talks held in Cairo between Russian defence ministry officials and moderate Syrian opposition brokered by the Egyptian side... agreements have been signed on how the Eastern Ghouta de-escalation zone will function," the defence ministry said in a statement sent to AFP.
The rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta is in one of four proposed "de-escalation zones" designated in an agreement reached by government allies Iran and Russia and rebel backer Turkey in May.
But the deal has yet to be fully implemented over disagreements on the monitoring mechanism for the safe zones.
The most recent talks in Kazakhstan this month between Russia, Turkey and Iran failed to iron out of the details of the four safe zones.
Russia said that the sides have now signed agreements under which "the borders of the de-escalation zone are defined as well as the deployment locations and powers of the forces monitoring the de-escalation."
It said the sides had also agreed "routes to supply humanitarian aid to the population and for free movement of residents."
Russia said it plans to send in the first humanitarian convoy and evacuate the wounded "in the next few days."
The Eastern Ghouta region is a major rebel stronghold near the capital, and it has been the frequent target of government military operations.
More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since its conflict broke out in March 2011 with anti-government protests.