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Inter-Syrian talks as follow-up of Syria truce meet Russian, US interests

The ceasefire regime stipulating the cessation of combat operations in Syria from midnight of February 27 has not been observed everywhere over the past two days

MOSCOW, February 29. /TASS/. The third day of the truce in Syria gives the hope for the ceasefire between the main warring sides - the army of Bashar Assad and the armed opposition - but the threat to the start of the political process remains over provocations from Turkey and irreconcilable Islamists, experts polled by TASS said on Monday.

The ceasefire regime stipulating the cessation of combat operations in Syria from midnight of February 27 has not been observed everywhere over the past two days. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, nine instances of ceasefire breaches have been exposed along with the Syrian border trespassing and the shelling of Syria’s territory from Turkey. In turn, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has accused Russian and Syrian aviation of truce breaches.

Russia and the United States are trying to continue the peace process in compliance with the UN Security Council resolution adopted on their initiative overnight to February 27 and involve more formations of the so-called moderate opposition in it.

For its interaction with the Pentagon, the Russian Defense Ministry has furnished the US military with the list of Syrian opposition armed formations that have joined the ceasefire, as well as the list of 74 populated settlements and areas with accurate geographic coordinates to exclude strikes against them.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Friday he intended to resume on March 7 the inter-Syrian talks in Geneva suspended in early February, if the ceasefire regime was observed and humanitarian deliveries were ensured.

In the opinion of Deputy Director of the Institute for US and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Major-General Pavel Zolotaryov, Washington and Moscow can ensure the truce conditions in Syria.

"The point is that Russia and the United States have common interests at the current stage of the Syrian crisis to overcome it. The United States needs the truce to shelter the so-called moderate Syrian opposition, on which the government troops of Bashar Assad have intensified their offensive," the expert said.

"Russia is seeking to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis because it is disadvantageous for it to be further involved in the military campaign. Besides, the Islamic State terrorist organization is a common enemy for Russia and the United States," Zolotaryov told TASS.

The expert said he didn’t rule out that provocations could continue from external players to disrupt the ceasefire and make this process develop in an unpredicted way.

"Such a danger exists. But the Russian and US presidents are interested in achieving the goal that has been set. That is why, negotiations on the political exit from the Syrian impasse may begin with certain reservations in Geneva already in a week," the expert said.

As for provocations from Turkey aimed at disrupting the truce, the military expert hopes that the United States and NATO "will restrain their ally."

In the expert’s opinion, Ankara fears the creation of a Kurdish enclave near the Turkish border and thus is trying to suppress the positions of Kurdish militia fighters.

"As is known, the United States supports Syrian Kurds in the struggle against the Islamic State and, as some specialists believe, contemplates a scenario to divide Syria and create Northern Kurdistan. That is why, Turkey should be interested in the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity," the military expert said.

However, President of the Institute of the Middle East Yevgeny Satanovsky holds a different view. In his opinion, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar remain the main opponents of the political settlement of the Syrian crisis.

"The agreement between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama on the joint actions of Russia and the United States to secure peace in Syria is a big surprise and a sharp knife for Turkish President Recep Erdogan. This agreement has disrupted Erdogan’s plans to start an armed expansion into Syria. But he is not giving up the Neo-Ottoman intentions to bring the Syrian city of Aleppo and the Iraqi town of Mosul back under Turkey's control. Erdogan cannot be interested in preserving Syria’s territorial integrity," Satanovsky told TASS.

In turn, Head of the Center for International Security at the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexei Arbatov noted: "No one would expect that the Syria truce process would be smooth. It was clear from the outset that a large number of hardly controlled armed groupings in Syria would stage ceasefire violation acts and terrorist attacks similar to the bombings that occurred in Damascus and other towns of the Arab republic to disrupt the truce."

"The main thing is as follows: the stakes of Moscow and Washington in the Syrian settlement are so high that there is no way to back off. Both the presidents of both countries and the foreign and defense chiefs from Russia and the United States are interacting in the common interests of the ceasefire. Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama already cannot say: ‘Excuse us, this didn’t work, and back away. This is unacceptable for them. The process has got off the ground. Difficulties, obstacles and disputes will be encountered on its way. But the ceasefire and inter-Syrian political negotiations as its follow-up are ultimately an irreversible process," Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Arbatov told TASS.

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors