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Russia urges US to ‘weigh consequences’ of Syria ‘safe zones’ plan

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov

Russia has called on the United States to thoroughly consider the outcome of its plan to establish “safe zones” in conflict-ridden Syria, where both sides are engaged in aerial military campaigns.

It is important to “weigh all possible consequences” of the US measure, Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in a press conference on Thursday.

He was reacting to the latest comments by US President Donald Trump, who said Wednesday that he “will absolutely do safe zones in Syria” for refugees with the declared aim of protecting the war-stricken refugees.

Noting that Washington had not consulted Moscow about the plan before announcing it, the Russian official emphasized, “It’s important not to exacerbate the situation with refugees."

According to a document seen by Reuters, Trump is expected to give 90 days to the Pentagon and the US State Department to draw up a plan for establishing what he called safe zones in Syria, a move that could result in increased US military involvement in Syria. 

US President Donald Trump (Photo by Reuters)

Former US president Barack Obama had long resisted such a plan, fearing the potential for confrontation between US and Russian warplanes in Syrian skies.

Trump’s comments come as a countrywide ceasefire is largely holding across Syria amid a fresh diplomatic process backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, which has brought the Syrian government and opposition groups back to the negotiating table.

Since September 2015, the Russian Air Force has been involved in a military mission against Takfiri terrorists at the request of the Damascus government.

Moscow’s fighter planes provide air cover to the Syrian army’s ground operations against terrorists.

The US, a staunch supporter of anti-Damascus militants, has also been conducting air raids along with a number of its allies against purported terrorist targets in Syria since 2014. 

The attacks, which come without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate, have not only failed to dislodge the terrorists, but led to many civilian deaths and damaged the country’s infrastructure.

The US-led raids have on numerous occasions hit Syrian army positions, facilitating militant advances against government troops on the battlefield.

In this picture taken on November 21, 2016, a US Navy fighter jet takes off from the deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier. (Photo by AP)

In October 2016, the Russian military specifically warned the U.S. against striking Syrian government forces, saying its air defense weapons in Syria would fend off any attack.

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Qatar, Turkey hail Trump's 'safe zones' plan

Qatar and Turkey, Washington’s regional allies, who have long sought the ouster of the Syrian government, were quick to welcome Trump’s plan.

On Thursday, Qatari Foreign Ministry's director of information, Ahmed al-Rumaihi, said in a statement that Doha had “emphasized the need to provide safe havens in Syria and to impose no-fly zones” in the Arab country.

In a similar stance, Turkey said that it had long advocated such a plan in Syria, adding that Ankara would make an assessment of Trump’s proposal.

“We have seen the US president’s request for conducting a study regarding the establishment of safe zones in Syria. What’s important is the results of this study and what kind of recommendation will come out from the relevant institutions,” said Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, Huseyin Muftuoglu.

The Syria-wide ceasefire, which excludes Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist groups, has been in place since late last month.

Organized by Iran, Russia, and Turkey, the latest round of Syria peace talks wrapped up in Kazakh capital city of Astana on January 24 with the three countries agreeing on the establishment of a mechanism to support the nationwide Syria truce and monitor possible violations. The negotiations will continue in Geneva next month.

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