Political Observation - The Sochi Summit: A New Stage in Syria

باسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Observation - The Sochi Summit: A New Stage in Syria

A day before the convening of the Sochi summit, Vladimir Putin received Bashar Al-Asad without prior announcement. This visit was equivalent to an American-Russian message to Turkey and the Syrian opposition factions that the political solution in Syria includes the remaining of Asad’s regime and consequently, Asad is part of the solution.

This does not prevent slight amendments; however, it will not touch upon the substance of Asad remaining in power. These could include consolidating Asad’s power with what has been called “domestic opposition” and making amendments to the constitution firmly establishing federalism. That has been affirmed by Putin’s call to Donald Trump following the end of his meeting with Bashar Al-Asad, informing him about the content of the meeting.

The meeting of Putin with Bashar was preceded by the resignation of Riyad Hijab from the High Negotiations Committee alongside 10 other members. The resignation of those members can be explained by the great pressure the Committee had been subjected to make them reduce their demands during the upcoming negotiations and particularly in relation to Bashar Al-Asad remaining in power during the transitional stage or Syria’s future.

The evidence for this is that the resignation was received very well by the Russian foreign ministry, manifested upon the lips of the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who said on 21 November 2017: “The retreat of radically minded opposition figures from playing the main role will make it possible to unite this motley opposition -- internal and external -- on a more reasonable, realistic and constructive platform, and we will support the Saudi efforts in this regard”.

In addition to the communication between Russia and America following the meeting of Bashar with Putin, the United States delegated to Saudi the role of sponsoring the conference for the opposition under the theme of the Riyadh conference which comprises of numerous personalities and representatives (Moscow and Cairo) that do not see a problem with Bashar remaining.

And today (Friday), it was announced that the Riyadh conference had reached the formation of a unified delegation of the Syrian opposition to participate in the upcoming Geneva conference comprising of 50 persons representing the various opposition parties. Despite the newly formed opposition stating that their minimum demand is the departure of Asad from authority, their acceptance of the participation of Moscow-backed opposition elements who have declared their reservation to this demand, nevertheless, sets the precedence upon what the opposition agree upon rather than what they disagree upon, and that there are options available to remove the demand of Asad remaining in authority.

By examining the conclusions of the Sochi conference of 22 November 2017, then the Russian-Iranian agreement over some of the issues like Asad remaining in power does not mean that they are in agreement in respect to every matter. That is because Russian and Iran disagree over the Kurdish issue in Syria whilst that is an issue in which Iran and Turkey agree upon. It is in relation to this that Turkey’s insistence upon the non-attendance of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) group within the ongoing negotiations stems. That is because both Turkey and Iran consider the Democratic Union party, the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), as a strategic danger to them.

The open and evident Turkish insistence for the departure of Asad stems from this, even though that is in contradiction to the desire of Iran and Russia. However, it is most likely that this Turkish insistence merely represents a card in its hand to exert pressure upon Russia, and America behind her, to distance the YPGY from any negotiations related to the future of Syria. In addition, Turkey wishes to impose its military presence in the north of Syria in a permanent manner in order to cause the Federal Kurdish project upon its southern border to fail; a project which America is adamant about accomplishing by force through funding, provision of weaponry and political pressure.

This is reaffirmed by Erdogan not addressing the issue of the fate of Asad in his speech following the Sochi conference. Instead, he only focused on the unity of Syria and the removal of “terrorist elements” from the political settlement. This indicates that Turkey is not opposed to Asad remaining if its military presence in the north of Syria remains and enables it to cause the Rojava (Democratic Federation of Northern Syria) project to fail, just as it and Iran were able to cause the Iraqi Kurdistan project to fail.

As such, the Sochi summit came to reaffirm the necessity of the work to bring about a political settlement in Syria via the de-escalation zones plan according to the dictates of the Astana conference. The summit also came to reiterate the necessity of working to convene a conference for “Syrian National Dialogue” in Sochi that will represent the political and ethnic parties for the purpose of establishing a political system, formulating a new constitution and the holding of elections under the supervision of the UN within the framework of the Geneva process.

The Sochi summit in Russia has presented the features of a new stage in Syria following the end of the role of ISIS and the success of the so-called de-escalation zones as a peace plan to stop the ongoing war in Syria. That is despite the situation in Syria remaining open to exploding at any time in the future whether that is in relation to the Kurdish issue considering that it represents a regional and international point of dispute, as a result of the ambitions of the Alawis or due to what the many years of civil war have left behind in terms of hatred and fears.

If the Islamic Ummah does not become aware and does not work to establish a sincere political entity that works to gather its forces and unify them under the banner of Islam, then she will never escape from the Kufr nations playing with its fate, bringing more death and destruction while plundering her resources, in addition to preventing her from undertaking her main work which is to carry the message of Islam to the world in its entirety to bring it out of the darkness of disbelief and into the light of Islam.

7th Rabi ul-Awwal
24 November2017