Fri May 5, 2017 9:33AM
Chief opposition negotiator Mohammad Alloush (C) looks on during the second session of Syria peace talks at the Rixos President Hotel in Astana on February 16, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Chief opposition negotiator Mohammad Alloush (C) looks on during the second session of Syria peace talks at the Rixos President Hotel in Astana on February 16, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
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Russia, Turkey and Iran – the tripartite states mediating for peace in Syria – have signed a memorandum on creating de-escalation zones in the war-torn Arab country. The deal, signed during the fourth round of the Syria peace talks in Astana on Thursday, envisages setting up safe zones in four areas in Syria and providing for a safe and voluntary return of refugees. To discuss the issue, Press TV has interviewed Richard Black, a Virginia state senator, and Brent Budowsky, a columnist of The Hill newspaper from Washington.

Black said he was concerned that the planned safe zones would provide terrorists with a sanctuary and give them a chance to flee and re-arm.

“The problem with safe zones is that it provides the terrorists a location where they can retreat, they can re-arm, they can retrain and then they can attack again,” the senator said on Thursday night.

He urged the Syrian government and other countries involved in the peace negotiations to be vigilant in order to prevent a situation that could be an opportunity for terrorist groups.

Black pointed to real safe zones in Syria, which are not in the areas that are controlled by terrorists. 

“There are six million Syrians who have fled to the government-controlled zones and there they’re provided with housing, food and everything that they need,” so, “the safe zones are in Syria with the Syrian government.”

Black said the fourth round of the peace talks will probably not resolve problems, but parties involved are getting closer as the situation on the battlefield is affected by the army's victory in Aleppo and recapture of the ancient city of Palmyra.

“The peace talks are important, but the peace talks reflect what occurs on the battlefield,” the senator explained.

Participants attend the fourth round of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on May 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

He further doubted that “there is a way other than defeating [the foreign-backed militants] on the battlefield.”

However, the Syrian government has expressed readiness to pursue a reconciliation process, Black added.

"If the terrorists prevail, there would not be a reconciliation, but there would be a massive slaughter of Christians, Alawites, Shias and the moderate Sunnis," he warned.

Black also touched on the US role in the Syria conflict, saying Washington, for six years, has operated a CIA program which trains and arms terrorists at camps in Jordan, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and then sends them across the border into Syria.

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Budowsky, the other commentator on the program, welcomed the planned safe zones, but also warned against providing a sanctuary for terrorists.  

“It is good if there could be some way that everyone can agree to create a place of safety, medical care and humanitarian aid for people in Syria who have suffered far more than any human-being on earth,” he said.

“If [the safe zones proposal] gets multinational support and if it involves the United Nations, other countries in the region, the United States as well as Russia, Turkey, Iran and others, there is a chance that it could be done,” he added.

The safe zones, Budowsky said, should not be used to “harbor any terrorists but it is not hard to do that if all the countries involved cooperate to get this done."