Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Russia, Turkey, Assad and a New Stage! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Participants of Syria peace talks attend a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

News of a Russian-Turkish agreement on Syria with both Iranian accord and disagreement, and a euphoric joy that Bashar al-Assad couldn’t mask, have been flooding the media for the past month.

“Delusional festivities” peaked throughout the Astana talks that were convened in the absence of senior U.S. or Saudi officials.

United States President Donald Trump is now at the White House and taking some controversial measures, meaning he is different than his predecessor, president Barack Obama.

Obama was weak and hesitant—we now face an energetic president who is ready to open channels with all parties and at the same time!

Despite reports on the nature of relations between Trump and Putin, the former initiated a step that is a remarkable game changer, especially in Syria.

Two days ago, an important phone conversation was held between the Saudi King and the U.S. President who initiated the call. The two agreed on several important ideas including enforcing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and facing Iran’s destabilizing regional activities. They also agreed on safe zones in Yemen and Syria.

Meanwhile their arrangement on Yemen is translated in terms of U.S.-Saudi multilateral coordination based on geography and politics, discussing Syria safe zones hints that the U.S. President views Saudi Arabia as an important partner with respect to materializing a solution for the Syrian crisis. It also indicates that brokering a Syria peace settlement is not limited to Russia, or Turkey and surely not Iran.

Accordingly, this shows that the region will return to its political norm unlike the Obama logic which saw no harm in allowing Iran to take over four Arab capitals: Sana’a, Damascus, Baghdad, and Beirut.

Even if many believe that the Moscow-Ankara role in our region is harmless – given that Iran is out of the picture- the U.S. administration, for the first time, supplied Syrian Democratic Forces (an Arab-Kurdish coalition) with armored vehicles.

Russia believes that imposing safe zones contradicts their previous statements of the gravity of such a move, and it is clear the Russians were surprised by it. They tried to restrain their reactions and find a way out.

While Assad’s regime conditioned safe zones with prior coordination, Russia’s FM Sergei Lavrov stated that the regime’s approval is a must to establish safe zones and launch an agreement with Damascus or Moscow for any future US-Russian coalition against terrorism.

This shows that Russia doesn’t want to escalate matters with Trump. They would rather buy some time to identify Trump’s actual plan, which is proven by Lavrov’s statement in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday when he said that President Trump should be more accurate concerning his suggestion for safe zones in Syria.

Lavrov added that he hopes Russia would be able to discuss the proposal with the U.S. Foreign Ministry as soon as detailed plans are set out.

This simply means that the month of “delusional festivities” in Syria is over, and a new stage began.