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Russian Document on Syria Warns against Kurdish State, Permanent US Presence

Russian Document on Syria Warns against Kurdish State, Permanent US Presence

Sunday, 18 February, 2018 - 08:30
Destruction in Syria. (Reuters)

A document that will form the basis of a Russian conference on Syria warned against any permanent American presence in the war-torn country and against the formation of a Kurdish state.

The document, a copy of which was obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat, presented the “rules of the game” in the Middle East, saying that 2017 was a changing point in the developments in the region.

It noted that none of the bloody conflicts there have ended, some of which have escalated, amid fears of the collapse of local governments. It did however speak of positive change in the region as local players seek political solutions.

The document will be presented at the Valday forum that will be hosted by Moscow on Monday. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is set to attend. It will also be attended by Syrian regime figures, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and former Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi.

The document underlined the importance of the state as a crucial institution for the Middle East, meaning that strengthening the state and resolving conflicts are core priorities for regional players.

Fear as a factor for reform

Contrary to past fears, said the paper, none of the regional countries were wiped off the map in wake of recent conflicts. This however has not eliminated these fears, which have become part of the general psyche in the Middle East, whether among the elite or the public.

The document noted the rise of the role of the civil society in the region, which was caused by either the encouragement of the governments, as part of the reform process, or due to the weakening of the state. The latter has led the people to take the initiative to empower themselves, as demonstrated in opposition-held regions in Syria.

ISIS demise as unifying factor

The document said that the defeat of the ISIS terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria acted as a unifying factor among players in the region. It noted however that even though the group lost the majority of land that it had seized, the “real reasons” for the emergence of the terrorism have not been eliminated, especially in Iraq.

It said that differences in priorities have started to appear between major and regional forces after ISIS’ defeat. This has exposed the “fragility of alliances” because each country is now prioritizing its own interests at the expense of their allies. The document gave the example of Turkey and the US, who are at odds over Washington’s support of Kurds in Syria.

The document then concluded that a political solution in Syria has become a “pressing priority.”

It then criticized the US for declaring that it had stopped supporting the Free Syrian Army, while saying that Washington has increased its backing to the Syrian opposition, but without providing evidence of its claims. It pointed to the growing relationship between the US and Kurdish forces and Washington’s intention to deploy special forces in Kurdish areas.

Such a deployment will strengthen the nascent elements for the establishment of a Kurdish state, warned the document, which will in turn impede efforts to regain Syrian unity as stipulated in United Nations Security Council resolution 2254.

The Russian document remarked that foreign players in the region want to transition from the military to the political phase to push for a political settlement. It noted however that some elite members of the Syrian regime have pinned major hopes on the military victory as opposed to relying on negotiations.

The document also mentioned “weak players” hindering peace in Libya. It addressed Yemen and how “the Palestinian problem has returned to the international and regional scenes.”

Not strictly military

The document concluded that the Russian military presence in the Middle East is important, but it was not the only means for the Kremlin to establish a policy in the region. The military aspect of the policy could push regional and international players to respect Russia, which is seeking to compete with other major powers in the region. Experience has proven however that one state alone cannot reach permanent solutions in the Middle East.

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