The press: Putin and Assad care more about winning than bringing peace to Syria
AP
Main page News, Russia

After last week's US-Russia deal on ceasing the fire in Syria, the world is waiting to see whether this would be enough to take hold of the conflict. What is the press saying about it?

In the latest meeting in Geneva on 10 September, the US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, have come up with a very detailed action plan on regulating the Syrian conflict. This is a rare case of the two countries making a military deal and willing to cooperate in Syria. The agreement has already received an approval of the Damascus government, says the Guardian. However, the Free Syrian Army, the largest opposition group, rejected to support the deal as they believe that Russian and Syrian governments will not stick to the agreement similar to the previous ones.

“Today the United States and Russia are announcing a plan which we hope will reduce violence, reduce suffering and resume movement toward a negotiated peace and a transition in Syria ... that, if followed, has the ability to provide a turning point, a moment of change,” Kerry said.

The agreement was planned to come in force as of yesterday evening. But is the deal between Russia and the United States really capable of making a change? Here is what the leading newspapers have to say about it.

Russia wants to maintain influence in the region

The Times is convinced that Putin and Assad are much more interested in being on the winning side rather than stopping the fire in Syria. The Times' experts believe that the agreement between the U.S. and Russia cannot secure a prolonged ceasefire and will only bring a brief truce. Therefore, there are no grounds to expect this agreement to be any more successful than the previous ones.

Next to that, the success of the agreement also depends on Kremlin's relationship with the administration of the next American president. At the moment, Putin is "simulating" smooth collaboration with Obama's administration, yet he is aware that in case Hillary Clinton wins the elections, the countries will most likely have a big conflict over influence in Syria, says The Times. Clinton has been a proponent of launching a "no-fly" zone over Syria that is controlled by the U.S. And this is the very point that Russia seeks to avoid as the country also wants control over Syria's fly zone in order to be able to implement their air attacks freely. This would be impossible if Clinton implements her plans for Syria.

"I do still support a no-fly zone because I think we need to put in safe havens for those poor Syrians who are fleeing both Assad and ISIS and so they have some place they can be safe," Clinton told CNN earlier this year.

The Times says that this would be a direct provocation for Russia as the country wants the next American president, whoever that will be, to accept Russia as the most powerful party in the Syrian conflict. When it comes to the Lavrov-Kerry agreement, the experts say that it is nothing more but another Russia's cynical realpolitik move. If all major Assad's enemies will be neutralized by the U.S. and Moscow will be the one to "control" Assad, then Russia's plan to win at all fronts will be completed.

The Lavrov-Kerry deal can warm the relationships between the countries

The Guardian, in turn, is much more optimistic about the agreement compared to their British colleagues from The Times. The Guardian's analyst Mary Dejevsky believes that even though Russia's interest in Syrian conflict remains the same, this agreement demonstrates that Russia is moving more and more towards using diplomacy and "soft power" as a political approach.

She says that the agreement will go through a hard test this week and we will see if it is really enough for the two leading world powers to "snap their fingers" to make the conflict stop. At the day when the new agreement was announced, Syria experienced another hostility outbreak. However, according to Dejevsky, this is not an indicator of the deal's failure.

The expert believes that this is also an important step to warm the relationship between the two countries as both Russian and American public is against participating in foreign wars and this agreement shows that there is still a possibility for the countries to cooperate. However, there is a distinct retro feel, going back to the Soviet years, about Russia and the U.S. securing a deal on the politics of the third country.

Al-Nusra to be targeted along with Isis

The Independent believes that the US-Russia deal is bad news for Isis as the forces fighting against it only get bigger. However, the experts say that there is one important flaw in the agreement: the countries decided not to consider al-Nusra to be included in "moderate opposition", even though the group is currently dominating Islamist fighting groups and deploying large numbers of suicide bombers. The Independent says that for al-Nusra the peace agreement between Lavrov and Kerry means a war plan aimed directly at them. Therefore, it is very unlikely that the fighting group will cease fire after the deal made in Geneva.

In addition to that, the Financial Times reports that the American government has already warned that the moderate opposition will face "dire consequences" if they continue fighting together with the terrorist groups. The U.S. urged the fighting groups in Syria to support the agreement but left them the right to "self-defence" when attacked by Syrian or Russian forces.

The Financial Times say that several opposition leaders agreed to support the ceasefire deal, yet they doubt that the agreement will make a real change in the conflict. The opposition leaders say that the interests of Syria's many fighting groups are so intertwined that it is almost impossible to force the opposition groups to completely distance themselves from al-Nusra. It is yet to see what difference the Lavrov-Kerry agreement will make, but one thing that the experts agree on is that the truce is not likely to last long.

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