Russia, Iran and Turkey on Thursday signed an agreement to set up four safe zones in Syria that the United Nations described as a promising step to wind down the brutal six-year war. The United States however gave an extremely cautious welcome, citing Iran’s role as a guarantor even as it expressed hope that the deal could set the stage for a settlement. Several members of the rebel delegation left the room shouting in protest as the signing ceremony got underway in the Kazakh capital Astana, angry at regime ally Iran, an AFP reporter saw.

The plan for the “de-escalation zones” was discussed on Tuesday by US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a telephone conversation that the White House described as a “very good one.” The agreement provides for a ceasefire, a ban on all flights, rapid deliveries of humanitarian aid to the designated areas and the return of refugees. READ MORE