sabato, Luglio 31

International negotiators agree on Syrian truce field_506ffbaa4a8d4

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Moscow – In a diplomatic breakthrough, the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and a dozen of other nations meeting in Munich reached a deal on a truce in Syria that should take hold in one week. The hard-fought agreement comes as the Syrian army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies are pressing their offensive around Aleppo under the Russian air cover.

The deal gives Syrian government troops and its allies a week to complete their tasks near Aleppo, Syria’s former commercial capital. The Syrian troops have almost fully encircled the city, which has been divided between government and opposition forces since 2012.

If the Syrian army establishes full control of Aleppo, it would mark its biggest victory since the Syrian conflict began nearly five years ago. The Russian air campaign that began on Sept. 30 helped turn the tide and allowed Assad’s forces to go into offensive in several areas.

The threat of Aleppo’s blockade by Syrian government forces already have forced more than 50,000 people flee toward the border with Turkey fearing that the city would starve under the Syrian army blockade. It appears unlikely that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military would overtake Aleppo in the week before the truce, but strong doubts remain if the cessation of hostilities could be enforced as agreed.

 

CLASHING INTERESTS

The Obama administration badly wants Syria peace talks to succeed to deflect criticism from the Republicans who criticized the White House’s handling of the conflict as an example of Obama’s weak and indecisive foreign policy. Washington’s strong interest in negotiating at least a semblance of a peace deal for Syria paved way for a compromise with Russia, which in its turn wants to improve ties with the U.S. badly strained over the Ukrainian crisis.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants a deal on his terms, seeking to secure Assad’s grip on power as peace talks get under way. The Russian air campaign in Syria has helped strengthen Assad’s positions ahead of peace talks and the ongoing siege of Aleppo would allow the Syrian regime to negotiate from a position of force. But that angered Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and others, who have invested their money and effort in ousting Assad since the Syrian conflict began nearly five years ago.

There are strong doubts that Washington could persuade its reluctant allies to switch course and encourage the militant groups they support to respect the declared truce. The task is even more complicated as they differ on which groups should be considered terrorists.

While everyone agrees that the Islamic State, or Daesh, should be defeated, other extremist groups like Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam, are considered legitimate opposition by the Saudis and the Turks, dubbed terrorist by Russia and viewed with suspicion even by the U.S. Along with Moscow, Washington considers the al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist group, while some of U.S. allies think otherwise.

With the battlefield around Aleppo and many other areas being a mosaic where all those groups and dozens of others confront each other and the government forces, reaching and maintaining a truce seems to be a daunting task.

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