Lavrov corrects the record after Pentagon pretends Moscow is okay with US occupation of southern Syria
For weeks now the Pentagon has consistently claimed its occupation zone in southern Syria where only US and US-backed fighters may move is actually a "de-confliction zone" that it has agreed with the Russians.
Supposedly blasting Syrian army troops in southern Syria was fine because even the Russians had agreed so. (Mattis even spun a speculative tale of how the Russians disagreed with Syrians advancing in that direction.)
Except Russian officials harshly condemned both of the attacks as soon as they took place. Lavrov was clear the day after the first one: "It is illegitimate, it is unlawful and the latest gross violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic."
Also, throughout all this time the phrase "de-confliction zone" was never uttered by a Russian official. If there was such a zone, they didn't seem to be aware.
The US statement on the second bombing yesterday again claimed there was such a thing as an "agreed upon de-confliction zone":
This time Lavrov did not just condemn the attacks, but also said he knew of no such zone, and that Russia does not recognize it:
“I don’t know anything about such zones. This must be some territory, which the coalition unilaterally declared [deconfliction zones] and where it probably believes to have a sole right to take action. We cannot recognize such zones.”
It seems Pentagon has a very peculiar understanding of tem "agreed-upon".
In all likelihood US military officials informed their Russian counterparts over their Syrian deconfliction line that they considered southern Syria around al-Tanf a special no-go zone for the Syrian army. However, unilaterally declaring a no-go zone over a deconfliction channel does not make if agreed-upon.
De-escalation vs De-confliction zones
It is as if the US is trying to confuse the issue and coast on the Syrian "de-escalation zones" which are actually agreed-upon – but are also completely irrelevant to the territory around al-Tanf which the Pentagon now claims for its forces.
In early May Russia, Turkey, Iran, Damascus and elements of the opposition agreed in Astana, Kazakhstan that the four main rebel-held areas in western Syria would be declared "de-escalation zones" where a permanent cease-fire would be established and government services restored, once al-Qaeda-linked fighters were expelled.
The US was invited to attend these talks, but only sent a low-level observer. Thus the US is not party to this deal, nor did it ever come out in support of it. To the contrary; the US expressed reservations, and made clear it did not feel itself bound by its restrictions. Pentagon was eager to assert its planes would not observe a no-fly zone over the de-escalation areas even if other nations did.
In any case, even if the US was a party to the de-escalation plan the four zones it seeks to establish are all well to the west of the US base in southern Syria.