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Russia Says New Safe Zone Agreed In Syria

Russia's Defense Ministry says it has agreed with Syria's opposition to create a new safe zone north of the city of Homs.

Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on August 3 that a cease-fire was set to take effect in the area at 12 p.m. local time.

The so-called de-escalation zone is populated by more than 147,000 people, he added.

The northern parts of Homs Province had recently been shelled by Syrian forces as well as hit by air strikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes.

The area is one of four proposed de-escalation zones under a Russia-led initiative. Two others -- in southwestern Syria and near Damascus -- are "already operating successfully," according to Konashenkov.

Under a plan forged by Russia, Turkey, and Iran at peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, a fourth safe zone is to be set up in the northwestern Idlib region. But disagreements from Turkey over various boundaries have kept the cease-fire from being established.

Russia has been aiding and fighting with Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since 2015. Iran is also backing Assad in his fight against various opposition forces, several of which are backed by Turkey.

Ankara has insisted that Assad be replaced as Syria's leader.

The war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people since it began in early 2011. Millions of others have been forced to flee their homes.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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