Skip to main content

Russia mulls strategy to solve Syrian conflict

Moscow continues to see the Syrian president as an important ally in the struggle against extremists, and its support for an inclusive national dialogue prompted the Russian Foreign Ministry to host two inter-Syrian consultative meetings that appear to have played a positive role.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) attends a meeting with members of the Syrian opposition and the Damascus government ahead of talks that attempt to revive peace plan efforts in Syria, in Moscow, January 28, 2015.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged members of the Syrian opposition and representatives from Damascus at peace talks in Moscow on Wednesday to join forces to combat the threat of "terrorism". Expectations of a breakthrough in Moscow are low, but Russia hopes the talks will giv
Read in 

The well-known recent gains by jihadists in Syria and Iraq, both in the military and the political spheres, have become an issue of serious concern for the Russian leadership. Unlike the West and many regional partners in the fight against terrorism, Russia continues to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — possibly to an even greater extent than before — as an important ally in this struggle, and one who is almost single-handedly leading the fight. This is not the main point of contention, however. If those who refuse to cooperate with the government in Damascus on this basis believe that the jihadist wave will subside with Assad’s departure, in Moscow they are convinced that this will mean victory for Islamist radicals who will come to power in Damascus and then expand.

As is known, Moscow’s support for an inclusive national dialogue as the only possible way out of the Syrian crisis prompted the Russian Foreign Ministry to hold two inter-Syrian consultative meetings this year in the Russian capital with the participation of a number of opposition and civil society groups, as well as a delegation of the Syrian government, in which I acted as a moderator. These meetings appear to have played a positive role, if only because the conflicting parties listened to one another for a few days. They reaffirmed their commitment to exclusively political and peaceful means to resolve the crisis, to the principles of the Geneva Protocol dated June 30, 2012, and to the need for a Geneva III conference. They even managed to (almost) agree on a number of very sensitive issues and that in the next phase of consultations, they would begin discussing the most difficult problem, namely a transitional governance system for the country. Intransigence on a number of the most pressing challenges interrupted the dialogue and prevented progress, however.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.