Damascus won't let 'enemies' benefit from de-escalation zones-minister

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad speaks during an interview with Reuters in Damascus June 11, 2015. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian government will not allow its enemies to benefit from the creation of de-escalation zones in western Syria, the Syrian deputy foreign minister has said, ahead of international talks on the zones scheduled for early July in Kazakhstan.

Russia and Iran - which back Damascus - reached agreement with opposition sponsor Turkey on the creation of four “de-escalation zones” in western Syria at talks in the Astana last month.

Faisal Mekdad, the deputy minister, said Syria was “ready for the coming rounds of the Astana and Geneva tracks next month, based on preserving its sovereignty and unity and sparing the blood of its sons”, state news agency SANA reported on Thursday.

He said Syria was scrutinizing “every letter” of an agreement set out in Astana last month and “will not allow anything thing to pass from which Syria’s enemies could benefit”.

A spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was quoted as saying on Thursday that under the agreement Turkish and Russian forces would be deployed to the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib - a rebel stronghold.

Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman, also said that a mechanism involving the United States and Jordan - two other important backers of the rebellion against Damascus - was being worked on for southern Syria including the Deraa region.

The four de-escalation zones set out in Astana are located in Idlib, Homs, the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus, and the southern border with Jordan.

The United States has said there are reasons to be skeptical about the de-escalation zones agreed in Astana. Washington has been seeking a bilateral agreement with Russia on creating a zone in southwestern Syria, an area that borders U.S. allies Israel and Jordan.

Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Toby Chopra