Russia, regional powers determining Syria’s future

December 19th assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey appears to have weakened Ankara’s nego­tiating position.

Foreign ministers Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) of Turkey and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran

2016/12/25 Issue: 87 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Mamoon Alabbasi

London - A deal brokered by Russia and Turkey that entails the Syrian government allowing civilians and rebels safe passage from eastern Aleppo was implemented despite setbacks but it also poses questions about the future of Syria.

Ankara sought mediation by Mos­cow to influence the Syrian regime to halt the siege and bombardment of the rebel-held part of Aleppo, where a humanitarian catastrophe was worsening.

The evacuation process faced delays reportedly by the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah mili­tants who are fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The delays were thought to be orches­trated by Iran to impose a parallel evacuation of Shia residents from the rebel-besieged villages of Fuaa and Kafraya in north-western Syria.

“It is clear that foreign Shia mili­tia ground forces have been acting on their own accord, at odds with the deal brokered between Russia and Turkey,” Lara Nelson, an in­dependent consultant to the Syr­ian opposition, wrote in an op-ed in, the website of Turkish state broadcaster.

The December 19th assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey by a Turkish police officer appears to have weakened Ankara’s nego­tiating position at the meeting on Syria attended by the foreign min­isters of Turkey, Russia and Iran in Moscow a day after the shooting.

“They met despite the killing, issuing a joint statement, which largely called for a political settle­ment of the conflict between the Syrian government and opposition and identified some Sunni insur­gents as terrorists, as Russia and Iran wanted,” wrote Borzou Dara­gahi on

“But the statement failed to iden­tify Iranian-backed Shia militias as terrorists, as Turkey had wanted,” he added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had sought to include Hezbollah in the same list as the Islamic State and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham but Russia and Iran did not agree.

The United States, which had been involved in previous diplo­matic efforts on Syria, was con­spicuously absent from the meet­ing and had little involvement in the Aleppo evacuation agreement but Washington denied being side­lined.

“The secretary [of State John Ker­ry] doesn’t see this as a snub at all. He sees it as another multilateral ef­fort to try to get a lasting peace in Syria and he welcomes any progress towards that,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the format of troika meeting is “the most efficient one” to overcome the “stagnation” in the Syrian peace process.

Russian Ambassador to the Unit­ed Nations Vitaly Churkin invited Saudi Arabia to join the efforts by Russia, Iran and Turkey on Syria.

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir called on the inter­national community to pressure Assad to reach a political solution in Syria.

“The Syrian regime is the one that refused to enter into any serious negotiations, continued the killing of (its) own people and brought ter­rorist organisations and sectarian militias into Syria, including the Is­lamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” Jubeir said, during a December 20th emergency meeting on Syria by the Arab League in Cairo.

Mamoon Alabbasi is Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor of The Arab Weekly. You can follow him on Twitter @MamoonAlabbasi

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