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Relative Calm Reported In Syria Safe Zones After Deal Comes Into Force

Relative Calm Reported In Syria Safe Zones After Deal Comes Into Force

The Pentagon has said the de-escalation agreement will not affect its campaign against ISIS.

The Riyadh-based HNC, which includes political and armed groups, said it remained committed to the United Nations -led peace process in Geneva and called for its revival.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin named Jordan as one of a number of countries already working with Russia in this effort.

A deal to establish "de-escalation" zones in Syria went into effect at midnight Friday (2100 UTC).

The new deal was penned by Turkey, which backs the opposition, as well as Russian Federation and Iran, both supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The U.S. was represented at the talks in Kazakhstan though Nauert said it was neither a "direct participant" nor a party to the agreement.

Turkey's foreign ministry suggested the scope was wider and would include the whole of Idlib province; parts of Latakia, Aleppo and Hama provinces; parts of Homs province; parts of Damascus and the East Ghouta region; and also parts of the southern Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

"These de-escalation zones, as I have seen them on the map, are in Western Syria and not in areas where [the Islamic State group] is active", he said. In January, President Trump said he would "absolutely do safe zones in Syria" to stem the flow of refugees to Europe, although it is unlikely he meant as part of a Russian plan with Iranian backing.

The document defines "terrorist groups" as IS, the former Al Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al Nusra Front, as well as groups or individuals affiliated with them.

Fighter jets fired at the rebel-held village of al-Zalakiyat and nearby positions in the northern Hama countryside, where the combatants exchanged shelling, the Britain-based war monitoring group said.

Activist Ibrahim al-Idlibi, who is based in Idlib, said the situation was calm in the province, which has been the target of daily raids by regime and Russian planes for the past few months.

The Observatory said government forces shelled and bombed the nearby town of Latamneh and surrounding areas.

The zones do not cover the three areas held entirely by the government, Damascus city, Tartus and Sweida, or areas in the northeast held by IS or a Kurdish-Arab alliance fighting the militant group.

The Pentagon says the de-escalation agreement will not affect the US -led air campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria.

The agreement did not explicitly mention the US-led coalition, which has been targeting jihadists from the Daesh group, but Lavrentiev insisted that "flights cease over these territories".

It is not yet clear whether the US Air Force will abide by the diminished air space regulations.

Syria's Foreign Ministry announced the acceptance of the Syrian government to the safe zone plan.

"The bombardment has not stopped, it is no different from before", he said.

Opposition representatives walked out of negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan, earlier this week, unable to accept Iran's involvement.

Russian Federation and Iran - two of the plan's three sponsors - are key allies of President Bashar Assad's government and both are viewed as foreign occupation forces by his opponents. Rebels fighting to topple Assad are enraged by Iran's role in the deal and blame the Shiite power for fueling the sectarian nature of Syria's conflict, now in its seventh year.

Turkey is a major backer of opposition factions and has also sent troops into northern Syria.

Key details remain vague - like what are the borders of the safe zones where fighting will stop?