Risks of de-escalation zones
The 7th round of the inter-Syrian talks held in Geneva last week under the auspices of the UN demonstrated that there is progress in the Syrian settlement. During the contacts between the Syrian parties, it was possible to move forward in two directions - discussion of the constitutional and legal issues and consolidation of the opposition groups. According to some estimates, Riyadh, Cairo and Moscow opposition groups’ approaches have become noticeably closer, they assess the ways of solving the Syrian crisis from more realistic positions.
"We hope that the urgent need to normalize the situation and establish a peaceful life in Syria will encourage the opposition to show constructive attitude and more responsible behavior in the subsequent negotiations with the government of Syria ... Our experts, together with partners, continue to coordinate issues related to the introduction of the de-escalation zones in Syria. We assess the situation in the zones as stable,’’ the deputy director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Artem Kozhin said.
Meanwhile, the senior researcher at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Boris Dolgov, sees certain risks in the zones of de-escalation: ”Creation of the de-escalation zones in the south-west of Syria, in the Quneitra-Dara direction was a result of an agreement between the Russian and American presidents. Not far from the zone, on the territory of Jordan, for a long time there have been camps for training of the fighters of the New Syrian Army, who are instructed by the United States, the special services of Jordan, and British instructors. The US and its allies wanted the New Syrian Army to act against both ISIS and the government army of Syria, which, in fact, was happening. On the one hand, the de-escalation zones are needed for cessation of hostilities, civilians will be less afflicted, humanitarian convoys can reach the areas. On the other hand, some local authorities are being formed in these zones, and in two or three years this may lead to a division of Syria. This danger can not be ignored.’’
Speaking about the external actors operating in Syria, Boris Dolgov recalled the statement made by French President Macron, that the withdrawal of Assad is not a top priority currently: "This is a positive development, but during creation of the de-escalation zones we should take into account presence of a large number of American bases in Syria, where special operations forces are located - American, British, French, etc. A part of the Syrian territory is already under control of these external actors, including Turkey, where the policy of neo-Ottomanism prevails. Turkey’s growing influence in the regions that were once a part of the Ottoman Empire is real. In other words, Syria is controlled by various forces, and as a result, Bashar Assad may not leave, but remain a president of some part of Syria. This is what our Western partners wanted.’’