Moscow’s declaration of its intention to reduce the number of Russian troops in Syria yesterday at the same time that a ceasefire agreement was signed has opened the door for early discussions about the fate of foreign militias regardless of whether they fought alongside the Syrian regime or opposition forces. Experts unanimously agreed that the matter depends entirely on the results of the upcoming political negotiations in Astana or Geneva, and the need to differentiate between the way that the Russian presence in Syria is dealt with and the way that sectarian groups are dealt with.
The Secretary-General of the Syrian coalition Abdul Ilah Fahad described the recent Russian decision as “positive” and said that the fact that it coincided with the announcement of a ceasefire in Syria made it a “goodwill gesture on the part of the Russians”. Fahad told Asharq Al-Awsat that it is “too early to talk about the fate of foreign militants fighting in Syria, especially as we are still at the stage of making sure that all parties are committed to the ceasefire. In the event that the ceasefire is adhered to on the ground, we can begin to prepare for the political process”. He continued by saying that “There is no doubt that the signing of a political agreement will require a series of meetings that will discuss the finer points and basic issues, including the fate of the militias”.
Fahad also explained that “the upcoming talks will also address the fate of the agreements signed by the Syrian regime with Moscow that do not satisfy the Syrian people”. The Russian Duma unanimously ratified an agreement at the beginning of October with the Syrian regime that grants the Russians a permanent military presence in Syria. Moscow announced that the agreement between Russia and Syria concerning the Hemeimim air base that is located in the province of Latakia, northwest Syria, stipulates that Russian military personnel at the base and members of their families are granted diplomatic immunity.