The Munich agreement: what to expect from the Syrian truce


In the night of Friday, February 12, at the conference on international security in Munich the foreign Ministers of the leading world powers agreed during the week to achieve a ceasefire between the Syrian government and the forces opposing him except the Islamists.

The statement prepared by the foreign Ministers of Russia and the USA Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry, and special envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was unanimously supported by the International support group Syria (MGPS).

Who is your support group

MHPS was formed in November 2015 at a meeting in Vienna, it includes as major world powers (Britain, Germany, China, Russia, USA, France) and regional players (Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey) and international organizations (Arab League, UN, Organization of Islamic cooperation).

Requirements for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents as follows: each party to the five-year conflict must cease fire against their opponents. The proposal of a truce will not touch forbidden in Russia groups “Islamic state” and “Dzhabhat EN-Nusra” and other organizations “recognized by the UN security Council’s terrorist”. To establish a truce were given one week: February 19 to MGPS must obtain the consent of the Assad government and the opposition on a ceasefire and operational team will define the terms “silence”. This group will operate under UN auspices and the joint chairmanship of the U.S. and Russia.

Negotiators in Munich has vowed to “use all its influence on the conflicting parties” to deliver humanitarian relief to the besieged city — including the organization of aviamost surrounded by Islamists in Dayr AZ-Zor.

Against whom will be friends

The primary task of the operational team MGPS will be the precise definition of the Islamists territory — focused and the head of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The question of who is considered terrorists, shared Moscow and the Western allies. The Russian foreign Ministry, for example, opposed participation in peace negotiations group “Ahrar al-sham” and demanded Turkey not to allow for the peace conference in Geneva rebels from the Kurdish “Demokraticheskogo Union”. In many ways, these contradictions determined the failure of the next round of peace talks early this month.

Now determine the forces that will be excluded from the peace process, will the UN security Council, but in fact this will be jointly Moscow and Washington. According to the expert of Institute of Oriental studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Grigory Melamedov, the status of “Ahrar al-sham” will recede into the background before the main task: the ceasefire between government forces and free Syrian army (FSA). Such a truce is possible, I’m sure Ali Salim Assad from the Russian-backed Movement for national unity of Syria. According to him, Damascus and at least a part of the “moderate opposition” fundamentally ready for a ceasefire. “If the system works, it will be a diplomatic breakthrough, he said . — Change the situation on the ground will give impetus to the negotiations in Geneva, which is able to become a platform for national dialogue”.

Diplomatic sources at The Wall Street Journal suggest that the truce in case of success able to “reset” the Geneva talks between Damascus and the opposition. Failure, by contrast, will force the West to consider the introduction in the region “no-fly zone” — which would make a clash with coalition aviation of Assad is inevitable.

Factor Aleppo

Lavrov, Kerry and de Mistura were able to agree in the midst of the battle for Aleppo, the second largest city of Syria. The city is divided between government troops and forces of the SSA, but the major battles unfolded North of Aleppo. In early February, Assad’s army has conducted offensive in the enclave Nubi, cutting off rebel groups in Aleppo from direct communication with Turkey. In the near future, according to the forecast of the Washington Institute for near East policy, the Syrian army will try to block the city and on the West side, completely taking him out of the ring.

Government forces could not achieve such success without the support of Russian aviation. Russian VC operations in Syria does not stop, stressed Lavrov in Munich — in fact, according to the official position of Moscow, its aircraft bombed exclusively the positions of the Islamists. “The actions of the Russian aircraft violate the spirit of the agreement in Munich, said a military expert at the University of Berkeley Sheriff Zuhur. — Until the massacre of civilians and moderate rebels, turning back from Munich to Geneva will not.”

Melamedov agree that fighting around Aleppo are now a key front in the civil war in Syria. But the expert draws attention to the fact that the battles take place mostly outside of the city. “In the desert to maintain the truce technically much easier than in urban combat, says Melamedov. In any case, the assault of Aleppo: the task of [Assad’s troops] is to cut off communication.”

Earlier, Moscow had proposed a truce since March 1, and Washington — immediately. Date February 19 was chosen as a compromise, but a delay of a week will still allow Damascus to consolidate its military gains in Aleppo, which is seeking Russia, says The Wall Street Journal.

The knight

Much still depends on Washington to Moscow, and from regional powers: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Back in November wrote that the deep differences between them — religious, ideological and geopolitical — are able to “bury” plans by world powers to resolve the Syrian conflict.

Each of the regional players fight not only for influence in Syria, and along the way, but solves other tasks. Melamedov is sure: Turkey to bargain with the West is in a rather advantageous position because of the migration crisis in Europe. If desired, Turkey can blackmail Brussels the prospect of opening the borders to Europe collapsed another large wave of refugees. According to the UN by the end of 2015 in Turkey is 1.7 million Syrian refugees.

At the same time, Europe might refuse Ankara in providing €5 billion on hosting these refugees on Turkish territory. Finally, taking into account of the siege of Aleppo forces of “moderate opposition” (and, hence, the bargaining position of Ankara) was considerably weakened, he said. Iran, on the other hand, may consider Syria as a springboard for the further spread of “Islamic revolution”, extending its influence among the Shia community of the country.

On the contrary, Ali Salim Assad is sure that the regional players will eventually succumb to the pressure of Moscow and Washington will agree on a political solution to the conflict. He shared the “moderate opposition” controlled by Turkey and Saudi Arabia forces and civil society representatives, ready for dialogue with the authorities.

A key factor for building long-term peace in Syria is to restore the balance of power between regional powers, says Melamed. “Due to the military operation of Moscow, this balance is severely disrupted in favor of Iran, which can not cause irritation of Ankara and Riyadh,” he said.