Russia Pressed at UN for More Details on Its Syria Peace Plan

  • Japan, Sweden, France seek more information before a vote
  • ‘We lack some key elements,’ France’s ambassador says

United Nations Security Council members pressed Russia to provide more details before they consider backing the deal it reached with Turkey and Iran to set up safe zones in Syria, including how the accord would be enforced and monitored.

Russia is seeking a UN endorsement for the latest attempt at a cease-fire in Syria’s six-year-old civil war, which has left hundreds of thousands dead. Japan and Sweden requested a Security Council meeting this week for a briefing on details that the U.S., France and other countries have found elusive.

“What we want is to have all the elements we need in order to engage seriously and in good faith,” said Francois Delattre, the French ambassador to the UN. “For the time being we lack some key elements of the substance of the agreement itself and the way it could be implemented afterward.”

The Russian-led initiative signed in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, calls for the establishment of four zones patrolled by foreign forces -- possibly including Iranian troops -- in the northwestern Idlib province, Homs province in the west, the East Ghouta suburb of the capital Damascus and southern Syria. The plan also calls for a halt to flights over the “de-escalation zones” and humanitarian access.

Russia circulated a draft resolution at the UN calling “on all member states to contribute in good faith to the implementation of the Memorandum on the creation of de-escalation areas in the Syrian Arab Republic,” according to the text seen by Bloomberg.

Read more on Russia’s effort to win U.S. approval for safe zones here.

The U.S. hasn’t committed itself to the agreement, singling out the potential role of Iranian forces in the deal. On Tuesday, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations would say only: “We are looking at it, thank you." 

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, en route Monday to Denmark, also said details such as the specific location of borders of the safe zones were still being worked out.

It’s not decided “who’s going to be ensuring they’re safe, who is signing up for it, who is specifically to be kept out of them. All these details are to be worked out,” Mattis told reporters, according to Pentagon transcripts.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have discussed de-escalation efforts in Syria, according to a Russia foreign ministry website statement. Yet the U.S. State Department expressed concern Friday about the involvement of Iran as “guarantor” because of the Islamic Republic’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a statement from spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

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