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Foreign Affairs

U.S., Russia Discuss Syria Safe Zone, Diplomats Say

Officials from the United States and Russia are quietly holding talks on creating a "de-escalation" zone in Syria, Western diplomats and regional officials say.

The U.S. and Russian special envoys to Syria, Michael Ratney and Aleksandr Lavrentiev and other officials have met at least twice in the past two weeks and will meet again, the Reuters news agency reported, quoting unnamed officials and diplomats.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the last meeting took place in the Jordanian capital, Amman, and included Jordanian officials.

The talks are at an early stage of discussing the boundaries of the proposed safe zone in Syria's southwestern Deraa province, on the border with Jordan, the diplomats said.

Russia, Iran, and Turkey brokered a deal in the Kazakh capital, Astana, in May to create four "de-escalation zones" in various parts of Syria, where forces of President Bashar al-Assad's government are fighting rebels. Iran and Russia have backed the Syrian government throughout the war, while Turkey supports its opponents.

However, Washington opposes Iran's involvement as a guarantor of the de-escalation zones set out in the Astana accord.

Reuters quoted an unnamed senior diplomat as saying:"The Americans are talking to the Russians and proposing a deconfliction zone outside the Astana process without the Iranians and their proxies."

The talks between the United States and Russia come as President Donald Trump's administration continues to face scrutiny over alleged ties between Moscow and Trump's campaign during the U.S. presidential election last year.

According to the United Nations, some 400,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war since 2011.

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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