Ceasefire due to begin in Syria within a week: Lavrov
Syria crisis plan: Cessation of hostilities, humanitarian airdrops, peace talks laid out in Munich
RT | February 12, 2016
An ambitious plan to end hostilities in Syria with verifiable results within a week, revive the Geneva-3 peace talks, and immediately begin delivering humanitarian aid to civilians has been unveiled in Munich, Germany after talks including the US, Russia, and the UN. Hostilities in Syria could come to a halt within a week after confirmation by the government of President Bashar Assad and the opposition, according to an official communiqué from the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting. A mechanism to help resolve humanitarian issues in Syria has been developed, which includes the creation of a task force that will begin work on Friday. A press conference was held after the meeting of the so-called Syria Support Group, with the participation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura. Kerry noted that the commitments agreed upon during the Munich meeting are only on paper and that the “real test” of progress will be to get all of the parties involved in the Syrian conflict to sign on and honor them.
Russia is counting on the US and other ISSG countries to put pressure on the Syrian opposition to cooperate with the UN, Lavrov said. The main objective that everyone agrees on is to destroy Islamic State, Lavrov added. He also called the notion that the situation in Syria would improve if Assad’s regime was to abdicate an “illusion.” Talk about the need to prepare ground troops for an invasion of Syria will only add fire to the conflict, Russia’s foreign minister stressed. The aim now is to resume peace talks without preconditions between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the opposition, which is the only format in which they could be successful, Lavrov emphasized.
“The goal of resuming the negotiation process, which was suspended in an atmosphere where part of the [Syrian] opposition took a completely unconstructive position and tried to put forward preconditions, was stressed [at the ISSG meeting]. We noted [today] that the talks must resume as soon as possible in strict compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, without any ultimatums or preconditions,” he said. While Lavrov, Kerry and Mistura held a press conference to explain the results of the ISSG meeting, separate statements came from several EU leaders. Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the US and Russia should coordinate their military actions in Syria “more closely.”
Syria Support Group talks ran longer than expected on Thursday, beginning at 7 pm local time and running over five hours, before resuming again for the finalizing of a communique. The last Syria Support Group meeting was held in Vienna on November 14. In the beginning of February, the United Nations temporarily suspended peace talks aimed at resolving Syria’s five-year civil war. The UN said that the process was to be resumed on February 25 and called on the sides involved to do more to achieve progress.
“I have concluded, frankly, that after the first week of preparatory talks, there is more work to be done, not only by us but by the stakeholders,” the UN mediator, Staffan de Mistura, said after meeting with the opposition delegation at a Geneva hotel. The latest inconclusive Syrian peace talks were attended by representatives of the Syrian government, the Saudi-backed coalition, and the High Negotiation Committee (HNC), which sent 35 leading members, excluding Syrian Kurdish groups, along with some additional moderate opposition members supported by Russia. Turkey insisted on the exclusion of the Syrian Kurdish party, the PYD.
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Saudi’s decision to send troops in Syria ‘final’
Saudi’s decision to send troops to Syria in an attempt to bolster and toughen efforts against militants is “final” and “irreversible,” the Saudi military spokesman announced on Thursday. Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, said that Riyadh is “ready” and will fight with its U.S.-led coalition allies to defeat ISIS militants in Syria, however, he said Washington is more suitable to answer questions on further details about any future ground operations. “We are representing Saudi’s [decision] only” in sending troops, he said.
He also sent a message to Iran, saying that if Tehran is serious in fighting ISIS, then it must stop supporting “terrorism” in Syria or Yemen. Riyadh has long accused Tehran of supporting the Houthi militia in Yemen against the internationally-recognized government there. Iran is also a key ally to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The statement comes as Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman visited NATO headquarters in Brussels to discuss the Syrian civil war.
The military spokesman also said that the Islamic Military Alliance will take effect within two months. Thirty-five Muslim countries released a joint statement announcing the formation of the alliance against terrorism in December last year. The alliance’s joint command center is located in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
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Earlier today we reported that Saudi Arabia has made a “final” decision to invade Syria. Of course they won’t use the term “invade.” They’ll say the same thing the US says, which is that they need to send in a limited number of ground troops to help fight ISIS. The timing of the announcement quite clearly suggests that the Saudis are going to try and shore up the rebels who are facing imminent defeat at Aleppo where Hezbollah, backed by Russian airstrikes, is about to overrun the opposition.
That outcome is unacceptable for the Saudis, who have been funding and supplying the Sunni opposition in Syria for years. For Turkey, it’s pretty much the same story. How Riyadh and Ankara plan to assist the rebels while maintaining the narrative that they’re only in the country to fight Islamic State is an open question, but one thing is for sure: it’s do or die time. In the most literal sense of the phrase. “Publicly, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are calling for troops to be deployed as part of the US-led international coalition already ranged against Isis,” FT wrote, earlier this week. “But regional observers say the moves are cover for an intervention to help the Syrian rebels.” “If Saudi and Turkish forces were deployed at Syria’s northwestern border crossings with Turkey, for example, they would be inside Russia’s operational theatre,” The Times continues. “This would be a total nightmare for the US,” said analyst Aaron Stein, of the Atlantic Council in Washington. “What happens if Russia kills a Turk? They would be killing a Nato member.”
Yes, a “total nightmare” for the US and to let one Iranian military source tell it, a “total nightmare” for the Saudis as well. Read below to see what Tehran thinks about Riyadh’s chances of securing a desirable outcome in Syria (note the reference to Saudi Arabia and Islamic State’s shared ideology):
Via Al-Monitor quoting unnamed Iranian military personnel: “It’s a joke. We couldn’t wish [for] more than that. If they can do it, then let them do it — but talking militarily, this is not easy for a country already facing defeat in another war, in Yemen, where after almost one year they have failed in achieving any real victory.” “The Saudis might really take part in this war. Such a decision might come from the rulers of the kingdom without taking into consideration the capabilities of their troops, and here is where the tragedy would occur. They are not well-trained for such terrain. I’m not sure if they sorted out the supply routes they would use — this is assuming that they would only fight [IS] — but it’s obvious they [want to] implement their agenda, after their proxies failed.” “This would mean a regional war. Mistakes can’t be tolerated, especially with the tension mounting around the region. It’s not about Iranians, but about all troops on the ground fighting with the Syrian army. How would the Syrian army deal with a foreign country on its soil, without its permission, and maybe aiming [guns] at them? That would be an occupation force. Can the Saudis control their army? Who can guarantee that some of them might not defect and join [IS]? They have the same ideology and they hold the same beliefs, and many of them are already connected [to IS].” “The Saudis are simply putting themselves in a very weird position that might have a very dark end. The worst thing is that the implications aren’t only going to affect the region, but world peace.”
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