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MOSCOW, November 2. /TASS/. Last Friday’s second round of international consultations on a political settlement in Syria brought about a real shift narrowing differences among the negotiators. Polled analysts have told TASS they saw real progress.
In contrast to the first meeting of the Syrian Quartet (which brought together the foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) the latest round was held in the expanded format involving all permanent members of the UN Security Council, representatives of the European Union, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and, lastly, Iran. The latter had for a long time been barred from the talks by Washington and Riyadh.
The chairman of Russia’s Foreign and Defence Policy Council, Fyodor Lukyanov, believes that the participants in the Vienna consultations will find it rather hard to come to terms. "In a situation where the partners at the negotiating table hate each other so much the outcome of consultations sometimes looks like an unachievable line of horizon, the way it happened in the previous years at the Syrian settlement talks in Geneva, Moscow and Cairo," Lukyanov told TASS. "However, the fundamental distinction of the Vienna consultations from all previous talks on Syria is the participants have set themselves the task of achieving a specific result. In the agreed communique the negotiators came out for preserving the territorial integrity and secular nature of the Syrian state and for the preservation of all governing institutions. That’s a practical outcome of the consultations, some sort of a framework that can now be filled with specific content."
The expanded list of negotiators is another strength of the Vienna process. "Whereas before the United States and other Western countries tried to bar some important actors from the Syrian settlement, now they have realized that the situation cannot be changed for the better without Russia and Iran," Lukyanov said.
"The very fact that the key players involved in the Syrian settlement have begun to agree on some general principles of activity will enable them to exercise influence on the smaller actors, who have been fighting with each other in Syria. It remains to be seen, though, whether these will agree to obey, because in the modern world the tail-wagging-the-dog type of situations are ever more frequent. But minor players will surely be forced to rely on support from outside forces and behave accordingly," Lukyanov believes.
The Moscow Carnegie Centre’s expert Aleksei Malashenko, a leading expert on oriental affairs, believes it is a good sign the multilateral consultations over such a complex issue as Syria settlement in Vienna have materialized and produced no row. "In Syria the world community is confronted with a large bundle or problems, because the country is being shaken by several armed conflicts. The Syrian government army is fighting with the armed opposition. A war is on between President Bashar Assad’s army and militants of the terrorist groups Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. The US-supported Free Syrian Army and Kurdish militias are fighting with the Islamic State. In turn, Turkey is fighting with the Kurdish militias," Malashenko told TASS.
On the Vienna consultations’ credit side, Malashenko said, the United States, Russia and other participants have shown greater awareness of the need for establishing an intra-political process for overcoming the Syrian conflict. "Whereas in the first round of the Vienna process, which brought together the Syrian Quartet’s foreign ministers, Russia’s stance was totally different from everybody else’s, now Moscow’s initiatives are shared by Iran, Jordan and Egypt. This is a clear success of Russian diplomacy," Malashenko said.
"In Vienna, no calls for Assad’s immediate resignation were made. All negotiators tend to agree, although to a different extent, that there should be a transitional period, followed by early elections, although US President Barack Obama just recently was adamant Assad must go. Another important development at the consultations is Russia has begun to establish contacts with the moderate Syrian opposition. Delegates from the Free Syrian Army have paid a visit to Moscow. Both Russia and the United States regard it as a major military and political force. It is not ruled out that its representatives will participate in the future rounds of Vienna consultations alongside the Syrian government delegation. Turkey is not against this format, and this is good," he remarked.
"Figuratively speaking, Vienna is a melting pot. As consultations go on, quite a few interim problems will arise. But nobody has ever said the Syrian settlement process can be easy," Malashenko said.
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