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Syria "safe zones" possible if Damascus agrees, says Russian foreign minister

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov [Sefa Karacan - Anadolu Agency ]
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov [Sefa Karacay/Anadolu Agency]

Russia may support the US initiative to establish the so-called 'safe zones' for refugees in Syria, the Moscow-based RT News reported on Monday, quoting the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov added that the plan would require close cooperation with the UN and approval from Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

"If this is about the people who were forced to leave their homes by the conflict, […] getting their basic needs covered, […] then I think that the idea to create areas within Syria for those internally displaced could be discussed with the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees and other organizations", he said.

 

Though promising, the proposal would require negotiations with Damascus to agree on the principles of creating such safe zones on Syrian territory, Lavrov added.

The Russian minister pointed out that the US government's proposal to create secure areas for refugees within Syria was put forward in the context of migrant flows to the neighbouring countries, the Middle East, as well as Europe, and "at the end of the day, the US".

He noted that the US initiative is completely different from what Western countries proposed at various stages of the Syrian war, "There have been ideas of creating some areas where an alternative Syrian government could sit, and use those areas for regime change".

Such a scheme was seen in Libya where the establishment of an alternative government in Benghazi was used as a pretext for the Western-led invasion to topple the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, Lavrov explained, adding that the Libyan intervention went ahead despite no green light from the UN Security Council.

On the same move, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) has quoted a government statement as saying that any attempt to install safe zones without its consent would constitute a "violation of Syria's sovereignty".

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump said on ABC that he will "absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people". He did not elaborate, but did say that the EU has been profoundly wrong to allow "these millions of people to go into Germany and various other countries".

Responding to Trump's statement, the Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the White House did not consult the Russian authorities clearly on the initiative. He added that it was "important to make sure that this does not further aggravate the situation with refugees".

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