Putin: Syria de-escalation zones 'important milestone'
31 May 2017 - 14:00
ANKARA: The agreement on establishing de-escalation zones in Syria is an "extremely important milestone" for peace, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.
Putin's remarks came during an interview with French daily Le Figaro posted online late Tuesday.
"Currently there are four such zones. We believe this is an extremely important milestone on the way to peace, if I can phrase it this way, because it is impossible to talk about a political settlement without stopping the bloodshed," Putin said, according to a statement by the Kremlin on Wednesday.
Putin warned against the de-escalation zones turning into a model threatening Syria's territorial integrity.
"I really hope (and what I am about to say is very important) that these zones do not become a prototype for the future territorial division in Syria.
"On the contrary, I expect that these de-escalation zones, if peace is established, and the people who will be controlling them, will cooperate with the official Syrian authorities," he said.
On May 4, Russia, Turkey and Iran signed a deal in the Kazakh capital, Astana, to establish de-escalation zones in Syria.
Putin also noted the "constructive" approach of Turkey, Iran, Russia, the Syrian regime and Syrian armed opposition to achieve a cease-fire in the war-torn country.
Upon a question whether he could envision Syria’s political future without President Bashar al-Assad, Putin said: "I do not think I have the right to determine the political future of Syria, be it with or without al-Assad.
"This is for the Syrians themselves to decide. Nobody has the right to claim the rights that belong to the people of another country."
During the six-year conflict, the Assad regime has been regularly accused by numerous international actors of targeting Syrian civilians with chemical weapons.
Putin claimed that the Assad regime did not use chemical weapons, saying: "We firmly believe that this is a provocation."