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Russia-France agreement to coordinate anti-terror efforts no breakthrough, but progress

November 27, 2015, 15:46 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
French and Russian Presidents Francois Hollande and Vladimir Putin

French and Russian Presidents Francois Hollande and Vladimir Putin

© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

MOSCOW, November 27. /TASS/. No broader international coalition against the Islamic State has been formed following French President Francois Hollande’s talks with Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin in Washington and Moscow but the agreement of Russia and France to coordinate strikes marks implicit progress, a number of experts told TASS.

Sergey Rogov, head of the US and Canada Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said Hollande’s arrival in Moscow was "a serious event". "Relations between Russia and the West were like a new Cold War over the past two years with no cooperation but a tough standoff," the academician said.

"For the first time after World War Two, Russia and one of the leading Western powers have agreed on joint efforts against a common enemy like Hitler. But even the anti-Hitler coalition did not form at once," Rogov said.

Contradictions regarding a future political settlement in Syria are one of the key reasons why Vladimir Putin’s idea of a broader coalition against Islamic State terrorists proposed at the UN General Assembly in September has not been realized so far, Rogov said.

"Russia and Western countries agreed in Vienna to start political negotiations between the moderate Syrian opposition and Syria's government on future reforms in the country, including the adoption of a new constitution and holding elections. But Bashar Assad’s political fate remains the stumbling block. Both Barack Obama and Francois Hollande think that Assad has no political future in Syria, while Russia insists that Assad’s army is the only real force in the ground operation against the IS and it’s up to the Syrian people to determine Assad’s future," Rogov said.

"A united international coalition to combat the Islamic State has not been formed due to current contradictions on Syria’s political future. Nevertheless, the Russian-French cooperation agreements are an important step forward. The distribution of functions in parallel strikes on the IS marks serious progress," the expert said.

The forthcoming climate summit in Paris set for November 30 would provide an answer to the question whether other EU countries were ready to join Putin-Hollande agreements to expand the international coalition, he went on. "If this does not happen, incidents similar to the downing of the Russian Su-24 jet by the Turkish air force above Syria may occur again," he said.

"The position of Turkey, which refused to admit responsibility for the downed Su-24, makes the situation alarming. But commonsense should win. Much depends now on the position of the US administration - whether it will show a pragmatic approach or not," Rogov concluded.

Fedor Lukyanov, chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, said it was too early to talk about the formation of a broader international coalition against the Islamic State.

"Joint combat operations and exchange of sensitive information require a new quality level of trust between Russia and Western countries. This level of trust has not been and will not be reached so far. This is proved by Putin’s statement that Moscow’s information given to Washington on the routes of Russian jets above Syria’s territory could be handed to Turkey," Lukyanov told TASS.

However, the expert highlighted some positive aspects of Putin-Hollande talks. "Putin and Hollande have managed to agree that they have a similar vision of a common target, the Islamic State, as before that, Russia had a broader vision of enemies in Syria’s territory. As a result of the talks, coordinated strikes would be focused more precisely on IS targets," he said.

"Why did Francois Hollande not raise the issue of the need to close the Syrian-Turkish border to stop both the flow of militants and supplies of terrorists from Turkish territory? Hollande has addressed this question to the person who can have real pressure on Turkey - the US president. But Obama is in a most complicated situation as it’s dangerous to Washington to depend on such an extravagant and reckless ally as Turkey," Lukyanov said.

"The attack on the Russian Su-24 has become a serious challenge to NATO countries. The North Atlantic alliance has stronger doubts whether it could rely on such an ally as Turkey. The story of the downed Russian bomber has made the situation with the formation of an international coalition against the IS more complicated if someone had serious hopes for this opportunity," he concluded.

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