What can Syria agreement achieve?

Russia, Turkey and Iran have agreed at their conference in Sochi to jointly seek a solution for Syria that will preserve the country's unity. A conference among the conflicting parties is to be held to determine a post-war distribution of power. Commentators express major doubts that this will prevent the country from falling apart.

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Milliyet (TR) / 24 November 2017

Everyone has their own list of terrorists

The summit's participants have different ideas about what a solution to the Syria conflict that could maintain the country's unity would look like, Milliyet observes:

“There's a broad range of options here, from a strong central government or a geographic, ethnic, religious and confessional federation to autonomy. ... Hence for Putin or Rohani, Syria's territorial integrity means something very different to what it means for President Erdoğan. For example, for Putin it's not a violation of Syria's territorial integrity if part of the country is administered by the [Kurdish] PKK/PYD. ... Similarly, the final statement of the Sochi summit gives the impression that the participants agreed to prevent 'terrorist' activities. Clearly, however, each participant has different groups on its list of terrorists.”

The Times (GB) / 24 November 2017

No way around Assad

The West has no alternative but to leave Assad in power for now if it wants to stop Syria from breaking up altogether, the Times argues:

“The Western aim in Syria was more complex. It wanted a unified, democratic state but now edges towards a critical choice. The priority has to be the maintenance of a unitary state even if that means keeping Assad in power for a little while longer. ... Inevitably, Assad's power will shrink. His eventual removal, and his replacement with a stable outward-looking government, must remain the strategic aim of the West and those in the Arab world who care about the stability of their region.”

Delo (SI) / 24 November 2017

Hopefully not another Yalta

Some observers see parallels between the summit in Sochi and the Yalta Conference of 1945, but Delo is sceptical:

“The comments of Russian analysts to the effect that the meeting of the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran can be compared with the Yalta Conference at which the victorious allies discussed the distribution of power in Europe after the end of the war are exaggerated. But even if their proclamations were true that wouldn't be a good thing. Although the winners didn't meet in the same Black Sea holiday resort this time, on Thursday, as in February 1945, they convened and conducted their negotiations with their fingers crossed behind their backs. The consequences of Yalta, where the Cold War began, can still be felt today. So we can only hope that the meeting in Sochi wasn't such a historical one after all.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) / 24 November 2017

US on the sidelines

The US will soon have no say at all in the developments in the Middle East, Corriere del Ticino laments:

“With his initiative the Russian president is turning the Americans into mere observers. A sad fate for the US, which has sent soldiers and invested resources in Syria. In this particular case Washington is not being rewarded for focussing more on diplomacy and its own image, faced with a public that is increasingly against wars in distant places that are perceived as insignificant in terms of national security. The US has now been called on (or forced) to give up all ambitions of determining Syria's fate, with all the consequences this entails for America's influence in the region. This is not just down to Trump's 'America first' stance. It's the same process of withdrawal that already defined Obama's foreign policy.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) / 22 November 2017

Conflict just entering a new phase

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung argues that there are still too many tensions for the war to end now:

“Many Syrians and neighbouring states can't come to terms with the idea of the Iranian military being stationed in Syria on a long-term basis and changing the country. Syrian society is still divided and the country is too. Because the regime controls only half of Syria but not the Kurdish areas where the oil, gas and water are concentrated. Without these resources Syria can't survive. The Kurds backed by the US are only prepared to join a federal Syria, but the regime isn't willing to go along with that. So there are plenty of reasons why the conflict won't end yet but simply enter a new phase.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) / 23 November 2017

Russia calling the shots in Syria

Putin is the one pulling the strings in the Syria conflict, Hürriyet Daily News is convinced:

“Events accelerated after Putin took full control. Without him it would have been extremely difficult to secure communication between the various parties, for example between the U.S. and Iran. ... [In addition to the official meetings] parallel diplomacy, contacts between secret services, and other less overt efforts also went on. ... Like it or not, Russia changed the game after it entered Syria militarily (with the encouragement of Iran) in 2015. For the last two years it has been the key playmaker that can speak to all actors in the region directly and easily.”

Le Figaro (FR) / 22 November 2017

Agreement no guarantee for ceasefire

It is by no means sure that the three-way alliance can achieve a ceasefire in Syria, Le Figaro points out:

“The alliance between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran may not be enough to ensure peace. Ankara is worried about the possibility of Moscow offering diplomatic support to the Kurds, whom Turkey regards as enemies and whose militias control part of northern Syria. Although they want to lead the negotiation process, the Russians will need a green light from the international community to legitimise their efforts. Will Vladimir Putin's announced conversation with Donald Trump on this topic be able to unite the players before [the continuation of the peace talks next week in] Geneva?”

T24 (TR) / 22 November 2017

Peace impossible without the Kurds

T24 predicts that the talks will focus on one issue in particular:

“The main topic in Sochi today will be trying to convince Erdoğan that the representatives of the Syrian Kurds should have a place at the negotiating table. ... Because unlike our government, whose ambitions and fears prevent it from thinking outside the box, Russia knows full well that the Kurdish problem makes a permanent - and even a provisional - peace impossible. ... Even Iran has acknowledged that fact. ... At the same time it's clear that the US, which is trying to maintain its authority and power in Syria and Iraq (and of course its access to oil in the region), will continue to rely on the Kurds. On this topic the US and Russia agree - if only temporarily.”

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