Mikhail Remizov: "Russia tries to make the US recognize achieved agreements on Syria"
Tomorrow Astana will host the second meeting between representatives of official Damascus and the Syrian opposition. It's expected that negotiations will be held all day in the same format as the previous round of Astana talks on peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict, which were held on January 23-24. It's planned that these negotiations will be a preparation for a larger meeting in Geneva. On the eve of Astana-2, president of the Institute of National Strategy, Mikhail Remizov, discussed the prospects of stabilization in Syria in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- What progress was made in the Syrian settlement since January meeting?
- I think almost no progress was made since Astana meeting on January 23-24. The fact that leaders of armed groups were involved in the consultation process was an important factor. This is an achievement of Russian, Turkish and Iranian diplomacy, and it made the negotiation process more realistic. When negotiations involve only part of the opposition, and the situation on the battlefield os controlled by the others, like it was before, such meetings are meaningless. It goes without saying that the process didn't get easier after becoming more realistic.
The fact that opposition is not united, consists of a variety of groups, which aren't coordinating with each other regularly and have individual approaches and interests, remains the main difficulty. One of the reasons for that lies in the fact that many commanders will have such status only until the conflict will end, and there's no guarantee that people with weapons will have a bright future. The negotiation process is often hindered by these unresolved issues.
- What concessions are Damascus and the opposition ready to make?
- Due to the lack of a unified military and political center it's very difficult to discuss concessions with the opposition. Damascus, for its part, demonstrates obstinacy. It's ready to admit autonomies within Syria at the constitutional level, accept decentralization, discuss the terms of constitutional transformation of the central government - but Damascus doesn't intend to concede on the matter of President Bashar Assad. I think Syrian authorities will only agree to scenario where Assad remains at his post, even if it will be a situation of constant crisis.
- Will the participation of American side in talks help the Syrian settlement?
- Right now I don't think it can help in any way. Washington just closely follows the negotiations, their results and overall situation. New Syrian agenda and White House's policy haven't been declared yet, the administration of American President is simply observing. Once it is clearly declared, once the priorities and emphases will become clear, the place of trilateral attempts of Russia, Turkey and Iran in the United States' Syrian concept will be determined. So far it's safe to assume that isolation of Iran is more important Trump's team, so it will be very difficult and uncomfortable for Washington to accept the efforts of this trilateral format.
- Does it mean that situation with the Syrian settlement will become even worse in the future?
- The understanding between the US and Russia on Syria will certainly be tested by in the issue of Iran, pressed by the republicans, so that it's still unclear how Trump's remarks about the fight against Daesh terrorist group being a priority will be able to balance this. In this connection, apparently, Russian diplomacy is currently trying to achieve a huge success in the trilateral format - a success that would make the US recognize achieved agreements on Syria, recognize the fact that political process has already started, the fact that only Daesh problem remains and that it can only be resolved jointly. But it will be very, very hard to do it.
Other participants in the talks are waiting for American side, which is still thinking, to do something. It's clear that Russia, Iran and Turkey are trying to operate in parallel to make their scenario come true, but in reality, all sides, including armed groups involved in the negotiations, are waiting for a reboot of America's Syrian policy, and until then they aren't ready for any agreements.