Settlement of conflict in Syria possible with greater interaction of Russia and United States
12 May 2016. PenzaNews. Well-coordinated work of Russian Aerospace Defense Forces in Syria helped achieve a radical turn in the battle against the Islamic State (IS, Daesh in Arabic; banned in Russia), Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with military commanders and defense industry officials in Sochi on May 10.
“Russian long-range bombers have carried out 178 combats flights, the strikes from the air and the sea on IS and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups were accurate, powerful and effective. They [the raids] have allowed us to achieve a turning point in the fight against the militants,” Russian President stressed.
During the Russian operation, the Syrian army liberated over 500 populated areas from terrorists, including the ‘pearl’ of world culture and civilization, Palmyra, he said.
Vladimir Putin expressed hope that the mechanism Russia has developed together with its partners, including the US, will lead to positive and fundamental changes in Syria.
The situation in Syria remains difficult, but the Russia-US brokered ceasefire regime is, on the whole, respected, although the terrorists continue their provocative attacks aimed at disrupting the truce.
“We believe our joint efforts have brought about a significant decrease in violence in the areas of North Latakia and East Ghouta. However, we also recognize the difficulties faced by the cessation of hostilities in several areas of the country, especially in the recent period, as well as remaining problems in ensuring humanitarian access to the besieged areas,” the statement published by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says.
Meanwhile, according to Sergei Kuralenko, the head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria, truce in Aleppo allowed to achieve significant reduction of tension and reduced the total number of violations of the ceasefire.
According to official data, the number of settlements that have joined ceasefire regime in Syria has increased to 99.
“Within last the last 24 hours, truce agreements have been achieved with representatives of two settlements in the Hama and Homs provinces. In the Hama province an agreement on cessation of hostilities with the field commander of the armed formations was signed. The total number of armed groups that have joined ceasefire has increased to 53,” the Russian Defense ministry said in a daily bulletin posted on its website.
Commenting on the situation in the region, Fernand Kartheiser, Luxembourg Parliament member for the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR), called the Syrian conflict extremely complex.
“The fact that Russia and the West cooperate to some extent in Syria is a most welcome development. It shows that Russia can be a valuable partner for the West in the fight against terrorism. This cooperation should also help improving the overall relationship between Russia and Western Nations,” the politician told PenzaNews.
According to him, the negotiated solution needs to take care, among others, of the security and well-being of all ethnic or religious groups and minorities in Syria.
“The solution must take into account the existing situation and cannot exclude the Assad government. However, considering the human rights record of that regime, a medium term removal of the current government would be a most desirable goal,” Fernand Kartheiser added.
He also stressed the need to pay particular attention to the role of Turkey in the region.
“The alleged or supposed links between Turkey and some radical groups in Syria and Irak have to be clarified,” he noted.
According to him, the stabilization of the security situation in Syria through a negotiated truce should allow for a swift return of refugees to their country of origin.
“European and other Nations could contribute to the security in Syria and provide opportunities for economic development. In the long term, a peaceful Syria could be of great importance for both Russia and the West, for instance in the context of energy and raw materials supply,” Luxembourg Parliament member said.
At the same time he appreciated the role of Moscow in the settlement of the Syrian conflict.
“The overall successful military intervention of Russia has shown that Russia claims again a larger role in international affairs and has the means to substantiate that claim. Cultural diplomacy has of course a lot of relevance. In that respect, the concert in Palmyra was a powerful symbol,” Fernand Kartheiser added.
In turn, Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at Brookings University and author of several publications for The National Interest magazine said he is not optimistic about the peace process in Syria.
“I see a battle unfolding for Aleppo with Bashar Assad and al-Nusra the two strongest parties, and the people of Aleppo the likely victims,” the expert said.
In his opinion, the only possible way to solve the problem is the creation of a confederal government in Syria.
“My own view is that western powers need to strengthen the moderate opposition much more assertively than we have so far, enabling a peace process that leads to a confederal model for Syria – with Bashar Assad likely ruling an Alawite and Christian sector, a Kurdish sector existing in the northeast, and one or two or three sectors led primarily by Sunni Arabs but with protection for minority rights,” the analyst explained.
According to him, then there would be a new, but relatively weak government which could strengthen over time if the autonomous regions ultimately wished that.
“The deal would be monitored and implemented by an international peace implementation force that presumably included both Russia and the United States. This to me is the only realistic path forward,” Michael O’Hanlon added.
Meanwhile, Orkhan Gafarli, expert at Ankara Policy Center, said that the United States and Russia do not take into account the interests of other regional powers on the Syrian issue.
“Moscow and Washington should invite to dialogue all the interested countries and take into account their views. The role of Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia is very important for the resolution of the conflict. Since the position of these countries is not taken into account, I do not think that the truce will last long,” the Turkish expert said.
According to him, particular difficulties arise from the lack of cooperation between Moscow and Ankara.
“Serious disagreements between Turkey and Russia, and the complete lack of cooperation between these countries on the Syrian issue have very negative impact on the whole process,” Orkhan Gafarli stressed.
“Turkey and Iran also have a very complex relationship but there is a dialogue and coordination between these states. There are negotiations on the level of foreign ministers. We cannot say that everything works, but the parties agree on certain issues, for example, the Kurdish question. The United States and Saudi Arabia also negotiate with Turkey, discuss some details. The main problem is the absence of any cooperation between Turkey and the regime of Bashar Assad, and between Turkey and Russia,” the analyst added.
Meanwhile, Kamal Sido, Head of Middle East Department of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), holds the opposite view.
“The US and Russia should unite their efforts in the region in order to minimize the influence of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran in Syria. Ankara, one way or another, supports Islamic militants, so it is necessary to limit its impact on Damascus. The closer the cooperation between Moscow and Washington is, the better” the German expert said.
At the same time, according to him, the situation in the country is still very difficult.
“Recently, I’ve been to Al-Hasakah province in the north-east of Syria which is under Kurdish control. There are two main sources of danger there – the first one is the Turkish government, whose artillery is firing on Kurdish positions, and the second one is the IS – terrorists blow up the mined cars in populated areas which results in numerous casualties among civilians. There are some other problems as well that are connected with lack of water, food, drugs, and lack of power in the region,” the analyst explained.
He also added that he does not expect the resolution of the conflict in the short term, as Russia and the US are not ready for a close cooperation on the Syrian issue.
“However, the conflict can be resolved very quickly as soon as the leadership of these countries reaches an agreement. The United States is in a difficult situation because their allies in the region - Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar - create additional complexity,” Kamal Sido said.
According to him, all Syrian citizens want IS and other Islamic terrorists to be crushed as soon as possible.
“Kurds in their majority do not support the power of the current president, but also do not want pro-Turkish and pro-Erdogan elements to come to power because they will conduct even tougher policy towards national minorities in the country,” the expert said.
“Bashar Assad cannot remain in power forever; you need to think about some kind of alternative. In my view, such an alternative should be a democratic federal state, which would respect the rights of all religious and ethnic minorities, and where Kurds would have their own autonomy,” he added.
In turn, Demetris Papadakis, Member of European Parliament from Cyprus, said the situation in Syria today is much better.
“However, it hasn’t reached yet the desired level so that peace is established all over the country in order Syria to return to normality. Many things are yet to be achieved. First of all, outside interference which aggravates tensions and collisions in Syria should stop. Instead, truce must be restored through dialogue thus contributing to the ultimate purpose of establishing lasting peace in Syria,” the politician noted.
According to him, Russian intervention had a positive impact on the process of conflict settlement in the region.
“Russia’s intervention is something positive as during the 5-year conflict in Syria, all the rest sit back and were unable to act decisively to change the situation,” Demetris Papadakis stressed.
Moreover, the European politician praised Moscow’s role in the liberation of Palmyra.
“Regarding the recapture of Palmyra last month, I would say that without Russia’s intervention things would be worse and IS would control the whole territory of Syria as well as of contingent countries. It was a key contribution to the settlement of the situation and towards to the right direction. But it is important to underline that Russia has a role to play also the day after regarding the implementation of the rule of law and democracy and towards a solution for the benefit of the majority of the Syrian people,” the MEP said.
In his opinion, the cessation of hostilities would be feasible in the near future only when the conflicting parties sit together to the discussion table.
“The capacity of the international community to solve international problems and crisis is tested in the case of Syria. If every major power acts in its own best interests then more problems are created. On the contrary, if all regional actors and major powers of the region cooperate then problems can be solved and in fact the region can turn into an area of peace and stability,” the politician concluded.
The ceasefire in Syria came into force on 27 February 2016 at midnight, Damascus time.
The truce does not apply to terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council, including IS and al-Nusra.