US and Russia negotiating bilaterally on Assad

US Secretary of State Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Lavrov agreed in Moscow on Wednesday that both states must seek better relations. However, they failed to reach a consensus on the key topic of Syria. Moscow blocked a UN resolution with its veto on Wednesday night. Commentators discuss to what extent the two powers can reach an agreement on the Syria question.

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The Evening Standard (GB) /

Let Putin save face

The US government should make it clear to Putin that Assad is no longer an option as Syrian leader, but use a tactful approach in doing so, The Evening Standard advises:

“This will not be an easy step for the Russian President, and certainly not one that he will take immediately. Expect more muscular language from the Kremlin as a ritual response to Tillerson's visit. His objective in the days and weeks to come is simultaneously to offer Putin ways of saving face and to make clear that the status quo in Syria is not an option. As Kennedy argued privately throughout the Cuban missile crisis, the key to success was to let Khrushchev climb down without humiliation.”

Jornal de Negócios (PT) /

Factors that prevent a deal

Putin will only give his approval for Assad's removal under certain conditions that Trump won't be in a position to fulfil, Journal de Negócios believes:

“That's why the possibility of a ceasefire in Syria must be ruled out. Any agreement on Syria must, as far as the Russians are concerned, not only guarantee the security of the Russian naval base in the Syrian port city of Tartus but also the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Russia because of its annexation of Crimea. … Syria is currently Putin's main trump card for persuading Trump to pay more attention to Russia's interests in Ukraine and on the European fronts (regarding the confrontation with Nato). … And it seems hardly likely that the White House will make a serious contribution to solving the conflict in Syria.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Moscow increasingly isolated

In recent years Putin has manoeuvred his country into an impasse, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments:

“Rather than securing more prestige and recognition for Russia as a major power during Trump's presidency, the Kremlin chief has done the opposite. The US's cold shoulder and the ultimatum that Russia must break with Assad are painful signs that Russia's policies have failed. Admittedly, Putin has achieved several stunning tactical victories in recent years - with the annexation of Crimea, the 'salvation' of the Syrian regime and spectacular hacker attacks in the US. But at a strategic level he's achieved only one thing: the growing isolation of his country.”