Syria: current format of de-escalation zones has exhausted itself

Syria: current format of de-escalation zones has exhausted itself

Consultations between high-ranking representatives of the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey on the establishment of the Syrian Constitutional Committee were held this week at the initiative of the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.

According to senior researcher at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Boris Dolgov, consultations between representatives of the Foreign Ministries of guarantors of the Syrian settlement and the UN Special Envoy brought modest results: "Syria opposition didn't present a list of those who should participate in this Committee. Only Syrian government provided this list. That's why de Mistura said that there will be another meeting in the same format."

According to Dolgov, the issue of constitution is very complicated: "Consultations should be held among all the members of the Constitutional Committee, they should come up with a unified approach. Then a referendum on this constitution should be held. Democratic rule should become the basis of the Syrian state system. Then, on the basis of referendum, the parliament of Syria should adopt constitution. But it's a complex process, since there are also differences within the opposition, as well as differences between the government and various parts of the opposition."

He recalled that inter-Syrian negotiations were pretty difficult for a long time because of the fact that there were differences in approaches to state-political system: "Demand of the opposition for President Bashar Assad to resign is absolutely unacceptable. If this continues, this process may be delayed... Political settlement is the only way to resolve this conflict, but tens of thousands of armed militants, terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (although right now the US are trying to prove that this group isn't terrorist) operate in Syria. Tens of thousands of people with weapons."

Meanwhile, deputy director of the Institute of Forecasting and Political Settlement, Alexander Kuznetsov, noted that over the pst half-year position of the UN Special Envoy on the Syrian settlement changed several times: "In February, he said that he will have final say in formation of the Syrian Constitutional Committee. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem responded to him, saying that Syrian government will appoint most of the Committee. Staffan de Mistura also made attempts to reduce influence of the Astana format. This was especially obvious in April-March, when operation was conducted in Eastern Ghouta. Its aim was to liberate suburban area of Damascus from militants. De Mistura was very skeptical about agreements reached in Astana. He said that Syrian government violated the de-escalation zones agreement with the help of Russia and Iran."

According to Kuznetsov, there are different approaches to de-escalation zones: "A decision to create them was made in May of last year, but some outside players desired to turn these de-escalation zones into enclaves of armed opposition. These zones were created in order to stop violence and gradually integrate these territories into normal political and economic life of the rest of Syria. Now this format has exhausted itself. We saw this in Eastern Ghouta. Right now sides are thinking about eliminating this de-escalation zone... Syrian government takes control of more and more territories, so opposition has much less opportunities in negotiations. If you don't control at least some territories, then it's very difficult dictate your demands."

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