The ground-breaking agreement on establishing de-escalation zones in Syria, signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey at the fourth round of the Astana talks last week, provides for demilitarising the eastern countryside of Damascus, the northern suburb of Homs, the northwestern city of Idlib, and the southern one of Daraa.
Syrian warplanes will be prevented from flying over these four districts, let alone attacking them, and they will off-limits to tanks, soldiers, and heavy arms.
The pro-regime elements are unhappy with the agreement but they have been forced to accept it, given that it is the brainchild of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The deal calls on Syrian regime to halt all attacks and to guarantee that schools, police, and basic services like electricity and water return to these four districts — but only after the ceasefire holds.
The “Putin Agreement”, as it is being called on the streets of Syria, hopes to get cemented into a UN Security Council Resolution by early summer this year.
From there, it is likely to include other parts of the country, like the countryside of Aleppo in the Syrian north, and the suburbs of Latakia on the Syrian coast.
Turkey, Iran, and Russia will serve as “guarantors” of the agreement, with each side making sure that its proxy on the battlefield accepts and upholds what was decided upon in Astana by the “Big Three”.
The next step is to provide the Syrians with an opportunity to express their political will and vote on the new constitution.
The Syrian government had shunned the Russia-proposed constitutional draft, objecting to the reduction of presidential powers that it contained and to the specific mention of local parliaments, giving Syrian districts a federal form of government that breaks the paramount dominance of Damascus.
At the forthcoming round of UN-mandated peace talks in Switzerland on May 15, known as Geneva VI, Syrian negotiators will be tasked with debating the Russian proposals for the Syrian constitution. According to sources in Damascus, “it is the only serious topic on the agenda” and Putin wants it to see the light by December 2017.