Not all players on board the US-Russia talks on Syria

Talks to end Syria conflict may end up without the required results as stakeholders are on different wavelengths.

A boy carries his belongings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria''s President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo''s al-Fardous district
The Syrian conflict has resulted in deaths of over 250,000 people in the past five years [Reuters]

Russia President Vladimir Putin says the situation in Syria remains complicated, and that’s true.

But he is optimistic that Moscow’s cooperation with Washington will lead to “fundamental changes” in Syria.

His comments were made a day after the issuing of a joint US-Russia statement that focused on a “shared understanding” to revitalise a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and intensify efforts to find a political solution.

For some, this was an indication of better cooperation between the world powers that support opposing sides in the conflict.

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The significance of the statement had more to do with the timing, and whether the opposing sides and their regional backers believe in the joint efforts.

It was no coincidence that it was released just an hour before a meeting of the Friends of Syria in Paris on Monday.

That meeting was called for by the opposition, but sources close to the opposition say they were disappointed with the outcome.

The French foreign minister and the European Union foreign policy chief welcomed the United States-Russia statement and expressed hope that the opposition and the government would return to talks in Geneva.

For many in the opposition, the Geneva process is nothing more than a waste of time because the Syrian government is not willing to make political concessions and is pushing for a military solution.

So, the opposition believes, the only way forward is to shift the balance on the ground and that would require advanced weapons.

Other players

Like the opposition and its backers, the Syrian government and its regional supporters have shown that they, too, are not on board.

They fear a US-Russia agreement could involve compromises that would be hurt their interests, and they have been sending messages.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s armed group Hezbollah which has troops fighting alongside the regime in Syria, said there is no hope for peace in Syria in the next few months.


The adviser of the Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati reiterated in Damascus that the issue of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s status is a red line, only days after the Russian foreign minister declared Assad was not an ally “the way Turkey is an ally of Washington”.

Coinciding with Velayati’s visit, the Iranian media did not just acknowledge that 13 of its men were killed in battle – one of the single biggest losses since it militarily intervened in Syria – but that up to six others were captured in the southern countryside of Aleppo.

Many observers said that was a message that Iran “is paying with blood” and that they “are a main player that has to be taken into consideration when a deal is struck”.

There are growing suspicions in both camps that the US and Russia are working on, or may have already agreed upon, a “future Syria”.

The opposition knows it is in a weak position and any deal at this point in time will not be in its favour. And while Iran and Russia may be strategic allies, they do have different interests in Syria.

There are fears that Moscow may be using Syria as a card to bring about the lifting of Western sanctions following the Ukraine crisis.

Putin was right when he said that the situation is complicated. But he may be wrong when he said cooperation with the US may change that. Because clearly not all players in the conflict are on board.

Inside Story – Are Syria warring sides serious on political process?

Source: Al Jazeera