By Yara Bayoumy
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 23 (Reuters) – Syria’s foreign minister said on Saturday that victory was within reach in the country and that Damascus hoped de-escalation zones will help reach a cessation of hostilities.
“The liberation of Aleppo and Palmyra, the lifting of the siege of Deir Ezzor and the eradication of terrorism from many parts of Syria prove that victory is now within reach,” Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
Russia, Turkey and Iran have been negotiating separately for months in the Kazakh capital Astana to try to reduce violence on the ground by creating de-escalation zones across the country, although those talks do not cover a long-term political solution to the six-year civil war.
Moualem, who praised as constructive the role of Russia and Iran, which back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said Syria was encouraged by the de-escalation zones and hoped they would lead to “an actual cessation of hostilities.”
Nevertheless, he said: “Syria reserves the right to respond to any violation by the other party. Syria also stresses that these zones are a temporary arrangement that must not violate the territorial unity of Syria.”
Earlier this month Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to deploy observers on the edge of a “de-escalation” zone in Syria’s Idlib province, which is largely under the control of Islamist insurgents.
The move falls under a broader deal in which they would set up four such zones across Syria.
The de-escalation plan has eased fighting in parts of western Syria between rebel factions and government forces loyal to Assad.
Assad has gained the military upper hand against an array of rebel groups, including some that have received backing from the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies.
Critics have described the de-escalation plan as de facto partitioning of Syria after years of multi-sided conflict. Moscow, Tehran and Ankara deny this and say the zones will be temporary, although they could extend beyond the initial six-month term.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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