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Russia's Failure in Sochi

Russia's Failure in Sochi

Tuesday, 30 January, 2018 - 13:15
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

While Moscow has been trying to win the race against time to achieve an "appropriate" peace deal in Syria, Assad’s forces have raided 93 times Idlib's countryside, including helicopters striking residential neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” shelled the region of Ghouta - where 400,000 people are besieged – on the outskirts of Damascus.

How could all this be happening while officials are negotiating a peace draft? Why do Russia, Iran and other countries think that the Syrian opposition will accept any solution when the message conveyed to the Syrian people is of fighting, destruction and displacement?

Negotiators in Sochi consider military escalation as a means of pressuring the opposition to accept the agreement, which is what usually happens in wars! But this is not true in the case of Syria. First of all, fighting will not determine areas of influence now. Second, negotiators can not sign any agreement without local approvals and the support of regional and other major countries. In fact, the shelling of Syrian cities and towns will ruin the Sochi negotiations, not help their cause.

What's worse than intensifying military operations is the leaked information about the draft communique, which has been disappointing for not including any changes that could convince Syrians and the world about the seriousness of the peace process in Sochi. The opposition is receiving a proposal to accept the status quo, where the political regime and the government's entity are maintained. It is seen as a surrender agreement.

Forcing Syrians to accept it will prolong the war for years and the Assad regime will lose everything the Russians and Iranians have fought for and achieved over the past three years.

But even with our disagreement with Russia concerning some details on Syria, we cannot ignore the importance of the Sochi negotiations, and the significance of peace that can be achieved if proposed in a reasonable manner.

It is within the interests of all Syrian people to end the war and meet their reasonable and just demands and the opposition’s desire for participation in higher political institutions, ensure regional security by pulling out Iranian and other militias, and assure Syria's sovereignty and independence.

Failure in Sochi means failure of the Russians. The conflict would expand further. The situation has become more complicated with Turkey’s direct involvement in the war, the divisions it sparked, and the dispute with the US, which like Russia and Iran, has become militarily active in Syria's war.

We know that Russia has important cards, including the ability to pressure Assad and Iran, which enables it to impose a reasonable solution better than the one currently offered.

However, all indications point to failure because Damascus’ allies insist on imposing a surrender rather than peace agreement. After that, delegations will pack their bags and head to Vienna to start again a different peace process that may not have better chances of success than the previous Sochi and Geneva conferences.

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