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Tue, 12 Nov 2019 12:00 GMT

Russia is a Major Actor in Containing the Conflict in Syria


7Dnews London

Wed, 16 Oct 2019 03:05 GMT

Recent news reports have highlighted the significance of the ongoing agreement between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government through Moscow's diplomacy.

The agreement allows the Syrian government into the Kurdish territory in northeastern Syria in a bid to spare their cities from the Turkey-backed assault.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, SDF commander-in-chief Mazloum Abdi's acceptance of the agreement is a smart move towards the efforts to contain the mounting security threats in Syria.

"If we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people," Abdi stated on October 13th.

While the formal details of the agreement were not announced, Syrian government troops have entered many of the Kurdish-held cities along the Turkish-Syrian border, including Kobani, Manbij and Qamishli.

The deal with Assad signifies a shift in the power balance of Syria's civil war as Assad's troops have moved into SDF-held territory.

Frederik Pleitgen, an international affairs expert, told CNN that Russia is already by far the strongest foreign power operating in Syria. President Vladimir Putin has allied himself with Assad, throwing the full weight of the Russian military behind the Syrian Army to unify the warring Syrian factions and put an end to the civil war which has been ravaging the country since the Arab Spring in 2011.

Russia's main base in Syria is the airfield at Hmeimin on the Mediterrnean coast, close to the city of Latakia. A number of Russian senior military personnel are stationed there. The base also houses the Russian Army's deconfliction centre.

Further south, Syria's port of Tartus holds Moscow's only naval base in the Mediterranean Sea. Russian submarines and warships equipped with cruise missiles often fired at Isis and anti-Assad rebel groups throughout 2015, when combat in Syria was still intense. At the height of the Syrian conflict, Russia also had a substantial presence of ground forces in the country.

Russian diplomatic efforts to back the sovereignty of the incumbent Syrian government started on October 2011. According to The Guardian, Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has repeatedly vetoed Western-sponsored draft resolutions demanding the resignation of Assad, also opening the possibility of UN-backed sanctions against his government.

The Russian leadership has furthermore rejected the demands of Western powers that Assad should not be allowed to be a participant in the Syrian peace process.

In January and February 2012, Russian peace initiatives were dismissed by the opposition Syrian National Council, which is a Syrian opposition coalition based in Istanbul, Turkey, formed in August 2011 during the Syrian civil uprising.

In September 2015, Russia's upper house of parliament authorised the Russian president's use of armed forces in Syria. Russian forces then targeted both Isis fighters and rebel groups in the Army of Conquest coalition, including the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria, and even the Free Syrian Army.

Russia has also separately provided armament and air support to Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces in their operations against Isis in Syria. Russia in January 2012 and in November 2013 suggested talks in Moscow between the Syrian government and opposition, which were rejected by the opposition.

Russia has proposed ceasefire several times during the last few years of Syrian civil wars. In October 2018, Moscow signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkey on Idlib, the last rebel-held territory in Syria. The agreement was supposed to provide for a ceasefire and protect the three million people living in the province.

Turkey feared that an attack on Idlib would create a new wave of migration. However, Russia's patience with Turkey has waned over their failure to disarm or remove extremists from Idlib. President Putin has repeatedly repudiated President Erdogan's call to halt an attack by labelling it an attempt to shield terrorists.

The latest ceasefire was proposed by Russia last August 31st. However, the agreement dissolved within days.

Middle East Russia