The News
Saturday 13 of July 2024

A Close Deal on Syria?


U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials look on during their meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) ahead of the G20 Summit at the West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou, China, September 3, 2016,photo: Reuters/How Hwee Young, Pool
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials look on during their meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) ahead of the G20 Summit at the West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou, China, September 3, 2016,photo: Reuters/How Hwee Young, Pool
Even if the two superpowers are sincere in their quest for a ceasefire in Syria, the end result won't be different from the ceasefire of last February

A meeting held Monday, Sept. 5, between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, to discuss a ceasefire in Syria was inconclusive. Obama described the long awaited meeting as “candid, blunt and business-like” and added that “gaps of trust between the two sides had hindered negotiations” describing them as “tough” and saying “we haven’t yet closed the gaps.” According to the U.S. president, the two sides are working to try to finalize a ceasefire in Syria that would allow more deliveries of humanitarian aid. The two countries are thought to be trying to reach a deal on some form of limited military cooperation against Islamic organizations, mainly ISIS.

President Putin was more positive, claiming he had grounds to believe Russia and the United States could strike a deal on Syria within days, allowing them to fight ISIS. Answering questions, he said it was premature to give any details about the terms of a potential agreement but said he felt a deal was close “and if it does [occur] then we can say that our joint work with the United States in fighting terrorist organizations, including in Syria, will be significantly improved and intensified.”

The meeting of the two presidents came after long meetings last week in Geneva and Hangzhou between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov failed in reaching an agreement on Syria.

In the G20 Summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged world powers to set a no-fly zone in northern Syria where there would be no fighting and which can stem migrant flow from Syria. He repeated his proposal to the U.S. and Russian presidents, who had previously expressed reservation about a situation which requires deep military commitment. He called on achieving a ceasefire before Eid al-Adha, the great religious event next week.

The French president François Hollande warned against a possible human catastrophe in Aleppo and the possibility of internationalizing the conflict, advocating a political solution in Syria.

A state department official said that the two presidents succeeded in defining the lasting differences and asked Kerry and Lavrov to meet this week to reach an agreement. He expressed his administration view on the only way of reaching a deal due to the humanitarian conditions, and said that deal should be clear and efficient, otherwise they will withdraw from the whole process.

The Russians don’t share the same feeling of urgency, since their allies — the Assad regime and its Iranian support — are not the besieged party.

The siege of Eastern Aleppo will be used, as in many occasions of the Syrian war, for political leverage over the opposition. So far, the sticking point is to separate the Fateh al-Sham group (formerly Al-Nusra), which was affiliated with Al-Qaeda, from the rest of the rebels to annihilate it in a coordinated U.S.-Russia effort. Doing that will be a blow to the opposition forces and will secure the dominance of Assad and his allies military lead, imposing their “political” solution for the conflict.

Combatting ISIS was the proclaimed reason for the Iranian and Russian military interventions. And it was the same motive for the United States and Turkey. Everyone used this pretext. Even arming the Kurds in northern Syria was under this slogan. ISIS is still here and will serve its purpose for a while, but the Syrian conflict is becoming more complicated, and the Syrian population is the permanent victim in an unprecedented way in modern history.

East Aleppo is under siege again, and its population of 270,000 lacks all necessities to survive. Their conditions will be the same of the people in other Syrian cities, last of them Darayya, who were starved to surrender by the regime.

Even if the two superpowers — the United States and Russia — are sincere in their quest for a ceasefire in Syria, the end result won’t be different from the ceasefire of last February.

With time and continuous violations from the regime and its allies, and from the Islamists who were excluded from its benefits, the imposed lull was eroded and hostilities were resumed.

It is not of the interest of Assad or his Islamist opponents to participate, in good faith, in any political process which will lead to a transitory period followed by a change in the political structure and distribution of powers in Syria. That also applies to the Islamist organizations who will be eliminated or marginalized in a peaceful situation. All attempts for negotiated settlement or cessation of hostilities failed in the past and will fail in the future for this obvious reason.