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Putin: Syria no fly zones could cement ceasefire

May 3, 2017

Russia's Vladimir Putin is confident "safe zones" in Syria's rebel-held areas would deliver a ceasefire that will hold. The 6-year-long conflict dominated Putin's talks in Sochi with Turkish President Erdogan.

Russland Türkei - Präsidenten Putin & Erdogan in Sotschi
Image: Reuters/Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin

A proposal to create conflict de-escalation zones in Syria is a positive step towards securing a ceasefire in the war-ravaged country, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Chemical attack 'fabricated': Assad

Speaking at a joint news conference with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Putin said the plan has wide support, but called for further discussions to finalize exactly how it would work.

Common position

"We both proceed on the basis that - and this is our common position - the creation of safe zones should lead to further pacification and cessation of hostilities," the Russian leader said.

Under the safe zone plan, checkpoints and monitoring centers would be created to maintain the peace in rebel-held territory, including the northwestern Idlib province, parts of Homs province, the south, and in the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

Putin added that the zones would prevent military flights over the affected areas.

Syrien Aleppo Bergung Verletzte Ruine
Some Syrian rebel groups want a nationwide truce instead of no fly zones in specific areas of the countryImage: Getty Images/AFP/K. Al-Masri

Justifying Turkey's involvement in the conflict, Erdogan vowed his country's military would continue to strike back against any threats on its southern borders with Syria and Iraq.

The Turkish leader also said he hoped "this zone of de-escalation will be accepted" at the latest round of Syrian peace talks which began on Wednesday in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

Rebel groups leave talks

But attempts to restart dialogue quickly stalled when rebel groups walked out, citing the continuing airstrikes on civilians in rebel-held areas.

The two leaders also sought to restore their own ties during Wednesday's meeting in Sochi, in the wake of the 2015 shooting down of a Russian warplane by Turkey, which saw relations plummet.

The Russian leader said ties have normalized, with an agreement reached to lift sanctions on trade and tourism that have badly hurt the Turkish economy.

Putin said large numbers of Russian tourists were returning to Turkey but didn't mention an exact date for removing the trade restrictions.

mm/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)