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Russia-US truce plan for Syria promises no push-button solutions

February 24, 2016, 18:49 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© Alexandr Elistratov/TASS

MOSCOW, February 24. /TASS/. Implementation of the truce plan for Syria Russian and US presidents agreed on earlier this week will be a prolonged and complex process - not an instant, overnight solution. And for the plan to succeed confidence-building efforts should be redoubled, polled experts have told TASS.

Russia and the United States on Monday adopted a joint statement on truce in Syria as of February 27 midnight Damascus time. The parties to the conflict - the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition groups - have already given their preliminary consent to ceasefire. Russia’s air base Hmeimim in Syria has opened a coordination center. All opposition groups are free to use its hot line number to declare they have decided to stop fighting.

Russian and US military will mark on maps the areas taken up by Syrian opposition groups not to be attacked by the Syrian army, the Russian air group and the US-led anti-terrorist coalition. The Russian-US agreement is not applicable to the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations blacklisted by the UN Security Council.

The president of the Religion and Politics Institute, Aleksandr Ignatenko, is certain that the implementation of the Russian-US truce plan for Syria will be taken to the international level, the level of the UN Security Council. "The co-sponsors of this process - Russia and the United States - have submitted two draft resolutions to the UN Security Council. At the moment a common wording is being coordinated before it can be presented to the UN Security Council for approval. This is the first step towards truce in Syria. In the longer term all members of the International Syria Support Group will be obliged to put pressures on their allies involved in the Syrian crisis for the sake of ending bloodshed on the basis of the UN Security Council resolution," Ignatenko told TASS.

The Syrian opposition’s preconditions for ceasefire, such as the lifting of blockade from the rebels-held areas, the release of prisoners and some others are not new, he said. The United States and its allies are to put pressures on the so-called "moderate" opposition in order to lift obstructions to ceasefire due to take effect as of the midnight of February 27. Ignatenko does not rule out that some participants in the process of reconciliation between the warring factions, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, may be "putting spokes in the wheel."

For his part Assad on the day the Russian-US plan was announced declared the intention to hold parliamentary elections on April 13. "It should be remembered, though, that truce will be just a prelude to political negotiations. These are to result in the adoption of Syria’s new constitution, which will provide for holding parliamentary elections certainly not on April 13," Ignatenko said.

"However hard to implement, the Russia-US plan for truce in Syria may herald a larger peace process in the Middle East. Or it may not. Certainly, it won’t be a push-button solution. Two major powers will have to work for a long time on the basis of mutual trust in order to remove all hindrances to peace and to avoid creating more obstructions, like ‘Plan B’," Ignatenko said.

On Wednesday, US media said Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford told a meeting at the White House the declared truce in Syria would not last long and Russia would be the first to breach the ceasefire. For that reason President Barack Obama should keep handy an alternative plan for Syria. A source at the Russian Foreign Ministry has told TASS in that connection that the United States should not hurry to give up efforts to implement the statement on Syria and that the Russian side still knew nothing about any Plan B the United States was talking about.

Ignatenko believes that in reality the United States has no Plan B. There have been merely speculations to the effect hypothetical failure of the peace process in Syria would imply some alternative scenario. "Arab mass media have interpreted Plan B speculations as a hint at Syria’s eventual dismembering through federalization or occupation. At this moment it is most important to agree on a common Russian-US text on Syrian settlement for the UN Security Council to adopt," Ignatenko believes.

The deputy director of the RAS Institute of US and Canada Studies, Viktor Kremenyuk, sees good chances for Moscow and Washington to succeed in achieving truce in Syria and starting a political settlement of the crisis. "Alongside the search for a peace settlement of the Syrian conflict a code of new relations between Russia and the United States should be devised. We are large countries, but we are not the only ones in the world. The widest dialogue should be promoted for the sake of restoring trust towards each other to ensure nobody in the United States, Europe or the Middle East should feel any doubts about the implementation of the settlement plan for Syria. Then nothing like Plan B will ever loom on the horizon," Kremenyuk told TASS.

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