There will have been no radical change in Russian or American policies on Syria when John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov resumed their leisurely meetings following their temporary estrangement that had culminated in a Russian veto against a draft resolution at the Security Council amid mutual polite accusations by the two countries’ UN envoys. The microsummit of the foreign ministers of the two powers alongside the top diplomats of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey may have succeeded in reaching accord over another provisional truce and urgent humanitarian deliveries, but it is unlikely a lasting agreement was reached on separating moderate rebels from the al-Nusra Front or a permanent solution for the battle for Aleppo.
Interestingly, the two European permanent members of the Security Council, Britain and France, were excluded from the meeting. Paris and London recently led the diplomatic escalation against Russia including by accusing Moscow of committing war crimes and calling for referring its ally Damascus to the ICC. One of the goals of the meeting in Lausanne is to set aside talk of accountability and war crimes by refocusing discussions on a ceasefire, aid and the peace process as Russia and Iran want at this crucial stage of the battle for Aleppo. Perhaps Lavrov’s condition was to exclude France and Britain, given their sharp tone against his diplomacy. What is surprising is Kerry agreeing not to invite his French and British counterparts. The lineup of the invitees suggests the purpose of the meeting was to focus on the main knot and ways to overcome it.
In Russia and Iran’s view, the designation of non-terrorist groups and separating them from the al-Nusra Front have become the main knot. Before addressing the Nusra knot, Assad’s allies are not willing to discuss the Assad knot, the key issue for Ankara, Riyadh and Doha.
Russia may give off the impression that its relations in the Middle East are in good shape, however, Aleppo is a cause of major concern for MoscowRaghida Dergham