The President of Russia Vladimir Putin at meeting in the Kremlin with defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on December 29 announced the signing between the Syrian government and the armed opposition of the agreement on cease-fire in Syria. A period of silence begins at midnight on December 30 local time (coincides with Moscow).
The parties also signed a document providing measures to monitor the ceasefire, and a separate statement about the readiness to start peace talks on the Syrian settlement.
According to Putin, this event “is not just waited a long time, but for the approaching which a lot of work”. On approval of documents worked in several world capitals, the President said: “a very great work was done in cooperation with partners from Turkey,” he also mentioned Iran and a meeting of foreign Ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran, held last week in Moscow. According to Lavrov, in the near future in Astana will be another meeting of the three parties on the Syrian issue.
Who joined the agreement
The last two months, the Russian defense Ministry with the mediation of Turkey led the negotiations with the opposition, said the Minister Sergei Shoigu. According to him, acceding to the truce, opposition groups is the core of the opposition, they control significant territory in Central and Northern Syria that is not under the control of government forces, including areas in the province of Aleppo and around Damascus. The total number of these groups — more than 60 thousand fighters, the talks were attended by the most influential field commanders of the seven opposition parties, said Shoigu.
The Minister has mentioned only one group, “Ahrar al-sham”. In it, according to Shoigu, 80 units on the territory of Syria, the arms of which are tanks T-55, T-72 and artillery. Later the Ministry of defence has published a list of seven groups joined the truce, there were only 192 of the squad and more than 52 thousand fighters. In the “Ahrar al-sham”, however, denied the fact of signing of the agreement, stating “doubt on a number of points”.
CNN Turk reports that the ceasefire agreement will support a total of about 62 thousand fighters of the armed opposition. As emphasized by the President of Turkey, the truce applies to those opposition groups that are not recognized as terrorist by the United Nations.
As explained by the Director of the Center for analysis of middle East conflicts of the Institute of USA and Canada studies Alexander Shumilin, the list of groups was determined, most likely, in the dialogue between Moscow and Ankara, after which he was “lowered” to the warring parties. “The result was that not all forces participate in a truce. Some of the participants (for example, “Ahrar al-sham”) perhaps wanted to, but were forced to give in to the pressure of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan” — said the expert.
Shumilin draws attention to the fact that the second side of the truce stands, the government army of Syria and not a word was said about the Pro-Iranian Shiite groups who are on the side of official Damascus. On Thursday morning, shortly before the ceasefire was declared, Turkey’s foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has urged Iran to withdraw the allied mercenary groups in Syria.
The situation on the fronts
In addition to the Shiites, not specified in the agreement, and the militants group “Islamic state” (ISIS banned in Russia as a terrorist organization), remain outside the truce, the forces of the Syrian Kurds. This was reported by press Secretary of the Free Syrian army (FSA, one of the largest opposition brigades) Osama Abu Zeid. Ankara regards the Kurdish militia as allies of the PKK, which is recognized in Turkey as a terrorist.
Now the Syrian Kurds is solid for the size of the territory in Northern Syria, controlling almost the entire border with Turkey. In October 2015, the Kurds, together with some units of the Syrian opposition formed an Alliance called the “Democratic forces of Syria” (SDF), which is the fighting force of the Syrian Kurds.
It is worth noting that SDF occupied the territory almost on the border with the forces entering from December 30 in a period of silence. Exception can partly be regarded as Turkish troops and allied troops, leading the fight against ISIL as part of operation “shield of the Euphrates”. In these circumstances, the only achievable opponent for the SDF are just ISIS militants. By the end of 2016 initiated by the Kurds against ISIS “operation Wrath of the Euphrates” has become one of the most successful in the fight against ISIS.
The aim of the offensive SDF to dislodge the extremists from the city of raqqa, the so-called “capital of ISIS”. However, coming last week to the strategically important dam Al-Thawra near Raqqa, Kurdish troops have halted the advance.
Meanwhile, in the last hours before the onset of the regime of silence intensified fighting in Central Syria between government forces and the opposition. Witnesses reported the strikes on Syrian aircraft in the town of dome, a suburb of Damascus. In the Wadi Barada 10 km to the West of Damascus, the opposition undermined the excavator, which was preparing military fortifications, and captured a gas station.
In anticipation of the new U.S. administration
On the background of the tougher battles, more and more middle Eastern countries to Express their support of the upcoming truce. With a positive assessment made by the authorities of Egypt and Qatar. At a meeting in the Kremlin, Lavrov noted that negotiations on Syria is really necessary to involve other countries with influence on the situation in the country. Such States, according to the Minister, are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq and Jordan.
The administration of outgoing President Barack Obama in negotiations did not participate, follows from the words of Lavrov. However, the Minister hopes “that when the administration of Donald trump, who will begin their duties, they will also be able to join in these efforts so that we collectively worked in the same direction.” That with the United States to reach an agreement failed, Lavrov complained last week. Previously it was the US and Russia were the main negotiators on Syria and still lead an International support group of Syria, which twice in 2016 (in February and September) failed to agree on a cease-fire in Syria. These peace plans in the end and not earned: for example, the September truce lasted only three days.
“Our Western partners, primarily the United States, has exhausted the ability to affect the restart of the peace process in Syria,” — explains the absence of Washington in the new peace plan, the Director of the center “Russia — East — West” Vladimir Sotnikov. According to him, now the responsibility for solving the crisis is taking on regional powers, and the likelihood of a favorable outcome increases. But in late January, after the inauguration of Donald trump as the new President of the USA, Washington will likely spend “a correction of mistakes” and connect to the peace talks.
On Thursday, Putin also announced the reduction of Russian military presence in Syria. However, the reduced options at the meeting were not named. This is the second reduction of the Russian presence. First, it was announced on 14 March 2016, shortly after the initial agreements between the United States and Russia on truce in Syria.
Statement on the withdrawal of troops and the restart of the peace process Shumilin from the Institute of USA and Canada, explains long overdue for Moscow to truly begin to emerge from the Syrian conflict. Followed it for a number of unpleasant events connected with this campaign — the murder of the Ambassador in Ankara and a mysterious crash on their way to Syria aircraft of the defense Ministry. “It is understood that the costs exceed the positive impact, — said Shumilin. — Some military successes have already been achieved, but now the problems will only grow, so you need to choose the moment to make a point”.
In any case, emphasizes Shumilin, all parties to the conflict are exhausted, and many actually support the truce. “Another thing is that not all want peace,” — the expert adds.
The main milestones of the Russian operation in Syria
An agreement on the deployment of military forces. 26 Aug 2015 Russia and Syria have concluded an agreement on the indefinite deployment of military aircraft to Syria. Under the agreement, the Russian side passed the airfield Hamim.
The beginning of the operation. September 30, 2015 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appealed to Russia with an official request for military assistance. Meanwhile, the Russian military aircraft was struck the first blows on the territory of Syria.
7 October 2015, the defense Ministry released a video of the launch of a cruise missile system “Caliber-NK” on Board the ships of the Caspian flotilla on the positions of militants in Syria. In December 2015, the Minister of defence of Russia reported the first missile strikes on Syria from a submarine.
The downed bomber. 24 November 2015, the Turkish air force shot down a Russian su-24 bomber. Killed the pilot Oleg Peshkov, the second pilot managed to eject. Ankara claimed that the Russian crew had violated Turkish airspace, but Moscow denied it.
The expansion of the military presence. November 26, 2015 the representative of the Ministry of defense of Russia said that Syria is on alert atonement for the Russian anti-aircraft missile systems s-400. The decision was taken after Turkish air force was shot down by a Russian bomber. 1 February 2016, the defense Ministry reported about the transfer to Syria of the newest Russian fighter su-35S.
The Liberation Of Palmyra. March 27, 2016 Syrian military units with the support of the Russian military established full control over Palmyra, which held the banned terrorist group “Islamic state” in the summer of 2015. The Deputy chief of the General staff of the armed forces of the Russian Federation Sergey rudskoy has informed that during the operation, the Russian air force struck at terrorists more than 2,000 air strikes.
The reduction group. 14 March 2016, Vladimir Putin said that the withdrawal of the greater part of the group from the air base at Latakia. According to the President, VKS performed the basic tasks before them. According to experts, in three days, then the military group had decreased three times. Despite this, the remainder of the aircraft continued airstrikes.
“A big operation”. November 15, 2016, the defence Minister reported to the President that Russia has launched a “big operation” in Syria, during which for the first time in the fighting took part aircraft-carrying cruiser “Admiral Kuznetsov”. By December 5, two fighters from the cruiser crashed. Also, according to Sergei Shoigu, Russia deployed in Syria s-300 “in order to close for a marine part, including almost to Cyprus.”
Re-capture of Palmyra by terrorists. 11 Dec 2016 liberated from terrorists the town of Palmyra was re-captured by militants of the banned terrorist group “Islamic state”. Syrian troops with the help of Russia began preparations for a counter-attack on the ancient city.
The Liberation Of Aleppo. 23 December 2016, the Minister of defence of Russia Sergey Shoigu reported the completion of the operation to free Aleppo from militants. The Eastern areas of the city were captured in 2012, and only at the end of 2015, the Syrian special forces were able to reverse the situation and with the support of the Russian space forces and units of the Lebanese group “Hezbollah” to lift the siege on areas where the government. According to the Minister, the operation was in two stages with “close contact” with Turkey and Iran.
With the participation of Polina Zvezdnoi and Philip Aleksenko