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Russia takes another long stride to bring Syrian settlement nearer

November 05, 2015, 19:07 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, November 5. /TASS/. Political negotiations involving the authorities in Damascus and the oppositional forces will be the sole way of settling the conflict in Syria, and Russia has just taken one more important stride to prepare for such a dialogue, polled analysts have told TASS.

After the two rounds of Syrian settlement consultations in Vienna Russia has shared with the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey a list of 38 members of the Syrian opposition members who, in Moscow’s opinion, might be invited to join the political process, including future elections to be held under the UN auspices. As Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has said, "the ball is now in the partners’ court."

Most proposed negotiators are members of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, recognized by the European Union and Saudi Arabia. On the same list there are representatives of religious and ethnic associations in Syria - the Christian Movement for Democracy and Peace, the Assyrian community, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the tribes of Syria’s northeast and even the Muslim Brotherhood. On the same list one finds the names of several influential businessmen and intellectuals. These figures, the Russian Foreign Ministry believes, may be involved in the political settlement process in Syria and take part in parliamentary and presidential elections which, as it is expected, are to be held under the UN auspices.

Senior research fellow Vladimir Akhmetov, of the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that in the course of the previous negotiations in Geneva Russia gained tangible experience of selecting not only potential negotiators capable of steering Syria towards a settlement, but also likely members of a future interim government. "That Moscow’s proposed list of negotiators contains mostly the names of National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces members complicates the search for a compromise. It is a Britain-backed organization and its leaders have hardline views regarding possible cooperation with the Assad Regime," Akhmetov told TASS.

Moscow makes it very clear that keeping Assad in power is not a matter of principle. His future is to be decided by the people of Syria. But for Russia it is of fundamental importance to keep intact Syria’s government institutions, including its army and special services. On the contrary, the Opposition leaders insist on the lustration of the officers’ corps because, they claim, the army and special services in the past used force against peace demonstrations in Syria. Reconciling the opponents in the course of negotiations will be really hard," he believes.

The key argument that might persuade the warring factions looks like this: the military are unable to settle the intra-Syrian crisis, which involves civilian, religious and ethnic factors.

"Doing away with this Gordian knot will be possible only through a political process, by drafting a new law on elections in Syria and changing the status of parliament to turn it from a purely decorative agency into a real body of power," Akhmetov believes.

The president of the Religion and Politics Institute, Aleksandr Ignatenko, believes that representatives from the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces were included in Russia’s list of Syrian settlement negotiators with their consent.

"It could not be otherwise. So there should be not a shade of doubt that NCSROF members find it acceptable to come to the negotiating table with the Syrian government delegation," Ignatenko said.

In his opinion, Russia took one more important step forward in preparations for future talks: "Moscow has already held meetings behind closed doors with Free Syrian Army members. Although its representatives are absent from the list of negotiators, Moscow has agreed with the FSA leaders on coordinating operations in the struggle against the terrorist Islamic State."

"The FSA leaders are going to be more active in the struggle against radical Islamists to be able to take part in the transitional political process in Syria when the victory of the Islamic State has been achieved. For its part Moscow has promised the FSA leaders that Bashar Assad’s troops will not be attacking FSA positions if it joins the war against the Islamic State in earnest," Ignatenko said.

He speculates that Russia’s list of Syrian settlement negotiators will be discussed, changed and complemented at follow-up meetings in Vienna. "Far from all buttons have been fixed on this coat, so to say. It’s a continuing process."

"It is very important that alongside drawing up the list of Syrian opposition politicians in Vienna, according to a communique adopted there, an expanded list will be agreed on of terrorist organizations subject to elimination. The combination of measures the international community has been taking in Vienna with Russia paying an active role in them is to bring about the beginning of a political dialogue, which will let the Syrian people determine their future," Ignatenko concluded.

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