By TRG Alerts Admin
Russia asserts role in the Syria’s transition
Putin addresses troops at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria on 11DEC17. (AP)
During a surprise trip to Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from the country, declaring victory in the nearly seven-year-old civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes. However, analysts have not only voiced skepticism of the announcement, but have also highlighted that Russia will continue to play a pivotal role in Syria’s transition. Russians are generally unsupportive about their country’s continued participation in the conflict, so it is believed that Putin will downplay Moscow’s role in Syria at home as he seeks reelection for another six-year term in March. But within the international community, Russia has emerged as a key dealmaker in the peace process, particularly as the UN facilitated an eighth-round of talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and opposition. In fact, the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura urged Russia to convince its ally, the Syrian government, to accept that there needs to be a new constitution and new elections to prevent the “fragmentation of Syria” and to achieve lasting peace. And while UN efforts again proved “fruitless” (with Damascus largely blamed for being unwilling to fully participate), most experts believe that Russia will maintain its strong influence over Syria as a part of a long-term strategy to bolster its position in the Middle East. Doing so would enable it to secure an upper hand against the US and other major powers in the region. For the next phase of talks, Putin has offered to organize a special event, a Syrian dialogue on a National Congress, in Russia in early 2018 to bring together the Syrian government and opposition once more.
News summary of events during the week of 11DEC17 – 18DEC17
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about Russia’s role in Syria’s transition
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding Russia’s role in Syria’s transition
Konstantin von Eggert, Political Analyst, Kommersant FM, Russia
“People [in Russia] are not that much concerned about Syria, it is a faraway land that people do not know much about.”
Mark Galeotti, Senior Researcher, Institute of International Relations, Prague
“The Russian people are not very enthused by the idea of an empire that would involve their boys coming home in body bags. There’s clearly a lack enthusiasm for this conflict … By having this military company Wagner, they can have a force they can actually deploy … but when people die, it doesn’t have to be announced.”
William Courtney, Adjunct Senior Fellow, RAND Corporation
“Vladimir Putin is determined to restore a greater role for Russia as a global power … and the Middle East is really the main area where Russia has that potential, in part because the Soviet Union played that role in the Soviet period.”
Noah Bonsey, Senior Analyst, International Crisis Group
“There are still major questions and a lot of potential for escalating violence in various parts of Syria.”
Nikolay Kozhanov, Professor, European University, St. Petersburg
“Moscow’s influence on Assad is limited […] Assad shouldn’t be seen as Russia’s puppet.”
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to Russia’s role in Syria’s transition
Media: Wall Street Journal
Byline: Nathan Hodge
Date: 11 December 2017
MOSCOW—Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a surprise visit to a military air base in Syria, in an effort to showcase his country’s rising clout in the Middle East months ahead of a presidential election.
Mr. Putin landed Monday at Hmeimim air base, a military outpost in Syria’s Latakia province that has been the main launching point for Russian warplanes backing the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In remarks to Russian troops, he claimed victory, saying Russian forces and their allies had “defeated the most battle-ready grouping of international terrorists” opposing Mr. Assad.
Media: Xinhua (China)
Date: 12 December 2017
GENEVA, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) — Syrian peace talks continued here Tuesday, with United Nations (UN) Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura meeting and holding separate bilateral talks with both the Syrian government and opposition delegations.
It is the 8th round of Syrian peace talks led by the UN.
Byline: Stephanie Nebehay
Date: 13 December 2017
GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura urged Russia on Wednesday to convince its ally the Syrian government of the need to clinch a peace deal to end the nearly seven-year-old war.
De Mistura, speaking on Swiss television station RTS, said failure to make peace quickly through United Nations mediation could lead to “a fragmentation of Syria”.
Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Byline: Nina Larson and Paul Raymond
Date: 14 December 2017
Geneva (AFP) – The UN envoy for Syria acknowledged Thursday that the latest round of peace talks for the war-ravaged country had failed, and blamed Damascus for the “golden opportunity missed”.
Staffan de Mistura told reporters that “we did not have real negotiations, blaming in particular the government delegation’s apparent lack of interest in discussing anything besides the fight against “terrorism”.
Media: Xinhua (China)
Date: 15 December 2017
DAMASCUS, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) — The Syrian Foreign Ministry on Friday slammed claims that the Syrian government delegation was responsible for the failure of the latest round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, state news agency SANA reported.
In a statement, the ministry deplored what it called the “allegations” of the UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and France, which blamed the administration of President Bashar al-Assad for the failure of the eighth round of the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.
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