Middle East&North Africa Syria peace talks. Russian armored vehicles

Published on February 19th, 2017 | by Lidija Bojčić

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The Syria peace talks and Russia’s advantage

No one could predict the demand for the release of political prisoners in Syria’s southern city of Deraa, in 2011, will lead to a shift in the balance of power among the major world powers a few years later. It just happened upon successful completion of Syrian peace talks in Astana between the warring parties in Syria’s civil war.

These peace talks organized by the Russian Federation and marked the absence of the United States which has refused to participate and send its ambassador as an observer of the negotiations. It was an event when Russia made a strategic victory over the United States in the Middle East. Along with Russia, at a conference in Astana, was Turkey, a key member of NATO. Turkey moved away from the US and it has joined Russia in the Syrian conflict – and that will be written in the world history.

The conference in Astana is the success of Russian President Vladimir Putin and what has helped him to refute the claim of former US President Barack Obama after Russia’s annexation of Crimea to Russia “regional power that threatens some of its immediate neighbors, not of strength but of weakness.” Finding himself in the spotlight in Astana, with Turkey as a NATO ally, Russia has shown that it is global, not a regional power.

Moscow has persistently and long worked to achieve this status. First, September 30, 2015. Russia’s military intervened to prevent fall of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Second, after a failed military coup against the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan July 15, 2015, Russian President Putin was the first foreign leader who supported the Turkish President.

Turkish President was very grateful for it. Next month he traveled to Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Before that, their relations were very poor after the Turks destroyed the Russian military airplane over Syria in November 2015. In support of Erdogan, Putin said: “Russia is categorically opposed to any attempt unconstitutional activities.” Their conversation lasted three hours, and they finished ironing out their strained economic relations, Erdogan announced his turn in relation to Syrian President Assad. This meeting is balance the opinion of Russia and Turkey on the Syrian civil war, in which Turkey had previously supported the rebels against Assad.

Assad was close to falling in August 2015, even with the support of Iran with weapons and armed militias, and the Lebanese group Hezbollah. All this was not enough to Syrian President retains his power, and this was confirmed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently. He said Syrian regime would “fell within a few weeks”, if Russia had not intervened in September 2015.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has issued a call for the help of Russia. Moscow decided to help him strengthen the air defense and increase the number of tanks and armored vehicles. To this end, Russia has used one of his last military bases outside the country, the port of Latakia to the operating base where the Russians had brought warplanes, attack helicopters, tanks, artillery, armored vehicles and advanced S-400 surface-to-air.

This operation has changed the balance of power on the battlefield between the Syrian government and rebels and Syrian diplomatic situation in the world. It is deeply upset the countries in the Gulf. In the period between October 2015 and July 2016, senior officials from four Gulf monarchies held meetings with Putin in Russia. They were the order from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain in which the US Fifth Fleet.

Putin has assured Turkey that it will maintain the territorial integrity of Syria at any cost, and when it was thought the Syrian Kurdish enclave in northeastern Syria. The Kurdish enclave was created with the help of the US and the Pentagon to help the Kurds in the fight against the Islamic state.

Turkish President Erdogan is very anxious aspirations of Kurdish separatists who want a similar autonomy as Iraqi Kurdistan, and perhaps once and Great Kurdistan in Syria, Iraq and Turkey – the Kurdish big dream. Erdogan’s aggressive policy towards the Kurds gained the approval of the Nationalist Action Party. On 20 January it has helped Erdogan collect more than 60 percent of the vote in the Turkish parliament to change the constitution of parliamentary democracy to an executive presidency. It was his great desire and long-term aspiration.

At the end of the meeting in Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey and Iran have decided to establish a Trilateral Commission to monitor violations of the ceasefire that came into force on 29 December 2016. There is not much information about this matter, but it will be published before the UN conference on Syria in the coming period.

Russia constantly emphasizes that the talks in Kazakhstan between the Syrian government and 14 Syrian rebel groups inside the bulwarks of the UN process. To this end, stands out the presence of UN special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura at the conference and his inclusion in the official photograph with representatives of Russia, Turkey, Iran and Kazakhstan. It’s all part of the plan emphasized a new leading role of Russia as a world actor.

The conference in Astana had its success due to compromise of all involved in the negotiations. Russia has created its new position that what distinguishes extremist jihadist factions and non-jihadist factions. The Astana conference excluded the Islamic State, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and the Syrian Kurds, with the explanation that the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Forces (SDF) associated with the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party, which is on the list of terrorist organizations in the United States and Turkey. This armistice does not include a moratorium on Syria, Russia and Iran in connection with the attack on the Islamic state and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

And the Syrian government has made concessions, it has dropped by insisting that it will be allowed only political representatives of the rebel groups to attend the conference and it accepted the presence of the military commander of the rebel factions.

An interesting statement about the Syrian issue has given Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek in Davos on January 20: “Turkey can not insist on a settlement without Syrian President Assad”. In Astana, the chief rebel negotiator Muhammad Alloush said: “The Russians have crossed the stage of the party in the fight to stage the guarantor of the cease-fire.” Not only that, Russia is engaged in drafting the Syrian constitution, the new dominant system, a referendum and elections.

These are all the preparations for the meeting in Geneva to be held in March. For now it is very promising. Therefore, Russia has become a global player in the Middle East, and the US is in retreat.

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