The Levant – By Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh –
The Russians have lately been dynamic and innovative in their diplomacy towards a political solution to the Syrian crisis. With the regional priorities shifting from political resolution to combating terrorism, the Russians are alone in continuing with this pursuit.
Moscow has been holding meetings with various parts of the Syrian opposition recently, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem has just visited Moscow for a meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian President would not traditionally meet with a Foreign Minister, but such is the apparent desire to achieve a political solution.
European sources describe Al Muallem as reliable and open to discussions. Additionally, the Russians included representatives from some Syrian opposition groups in the talks. Together they discussed strategies to neutralizing those who opposed the achievement of a political solution.
it appears the US is not obstructing their diplomatic efforts. It is becoming increasingly difficult to create and sustain reliable opposition groups in Syria and the political instability only increases the risks for further collapse and other threats.
Recently we have also see a visit by the Saudi Foreign Minister to Moscow and President Putin to Turkey, indicating a coordinated engagement with the major stakeholders in the Syrian crisis. The Russians appear intent on achieving a consensus solution between all of the key players.
Meanwhile, President Putin sent an envoy to the Middle East, with Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov travelling to the region for several meetings. One of these was with Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. The two have met previously, including before the Al Qusair battle in May 2013 that completely redrew the map of power in Syria.
Previous failed diplomatic attempts have taught Moscow the need for a multilateral strategy to limit the escalation and demands that some European countries such as France often placed on previous proposed solutions. The Russians have also learned to deal with EU countries with all issues on the table, where discussions and negotiations include gas supply, Ukraine, combating terrorism and the Syrian crisis.
While it seems that the US is absent from these attempts, they are staying out of the way. The Americans have also prioritized combating terrorism and cannot refocus on a political solution without causing conflict with their main objective.
Despite this, it is interesting to note shifts in language used by various US think tanks describing ‘Syrian Government forces’ rather than previously used language such as ‘regime forces’ or ‘Assad’s forces’. It seems American support in this pursuit is by getting out of the way.