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Russian expert says Middle Eastern states should all join Syrian peace agreements

December 29, 2016, 18:32 UTC+3 MOSCOW

According to the expert, only Saudi Arabia may create problems

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© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

MOSCOW, December 29. /TASS/. Middle Eastern countries could facilitate peace talks in Syria by joining the process of settling the crisis, science director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of Russia’s Academy of Science Vitaly Naumkin, who is one of the special advisors to the UN Special Envoy to Syria head Staffan de Mistura, said in an interview with TASS.

When commenting on the possibility of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Iraq joining the agreements aimed at settling the Syrian crisis, the Russian expert said that "all these countries should join the process." "They have expressed their readiness, and I believe they will do as they say."

"This is sure to facilitate the talks, the agreements and the peace process in general," Naumkin added. "This will be possible if all the regional players adopt a meaningful position and abandon maximalist demands, including the demand that Assad step down as soon as possible, on which Saudi Arabia has been insisting."

According to Naumkin, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon "are committed to meaningful work".

"Only Saudi Arabia may create problems, so it has to moderate its stance or risk being left behind," the Russian expert pointed out.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the agreements on a ceasefire and peace talks reached in Syria with President Vladimir Putin. The Russian top diplomat said that Egypt would join the agreements while Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Iraq would follow at later stages.

Speaking about the possibility of the United States joining these agreements under Donald Trump, Naumkin noted that "there is a big chance, particularly as far the Syrian conflict is concerned." "Chances are that efforts will be consolidated to combat terrorism," he stressed. "Some success may be achieved in this field."

"However, the Arab-Israeli conflict is more complicated, in particular, the US president-elect’s position is a bit alarming," Naumkin added. 

First step for inter-Syrian talks 

"The ceasefire should be the first step towards actual negotiations but it is still an open question of whether the sides are ready for the talks without preconditions," the expert said.

"That is why, a ceasefire regime is possible but everything depends on whether it is observed as no one would give a 100% guarantee now. It is important to see whether this regime is followed by the next stage, the stage of peace talks: who will participate in them and whether it is possible in general to form a single delegation to represent the warring factions. Precisely such a delegation is needed for the talks to take place," he explained.

The Syrian army command announced on Thursday that combat operations on the entire territory of Syria would cease from midnight on December 30. Media outlets earlier reported about consultations being held by Moscow and Ankara on a comprehensive ceasefire across Syria.

"The truce observance is realistic because an overwhelming part of groupings is controlled precisely by Turkey," Naumkin said.

"Considering that Ankara is acting as Moscow’s partner for ensuring the ceasefire, this will possibly be achieved. Such truce cannot but be fragile. It should be understood that Turkey does not control 100% of all armed groups in the country and there are very radical opponents of the truce among armed groupings in Syria," the expert said.

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