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Will things change in Syria after Kerry’s Moscow visit?

Russia’s list of terrorist groups fighting in Syria is much longer, and includes those have infil-trated rebel ranks

Maria Dubovikova

Published: Updated:

US Secretary of State John Kerry has come to Moscow to discuss closer coordination on Syr-ia. The idea is to form a Joint Implementation Group to enable extended coordination between the Russian and US militaries, primarily against Jabhat An-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The aim is to agree over military targets and exchange intelligence about the positioning of ground forces.

Cooperation was proposed by Moscow long ago, but while synchronization rather than de-pendence was its aim, any target Russia wants to hit has to get American approval. There are exceptions regarding emergency cases, but this complicates matters as both countries could take advantage of these exceptions often and without limitations.

Russia’s list of terrorist groups fighting in Syria is much longer, and includes Ahrar al-Sham and Jeish al-Islam, which have infiltrated rebel ranks. Russia has at times hit areas where US data has shown an absence of Jabhat an-Nusra and a concentration of US-trained rebels. This has caused American mistrust of Russia and doubts about the point of intelligence-sharing.

To resolve the Syrian conflict, an absolute, well-managed ceasefire should be imposed over the whole country

Maria Dubovikova

Washington’s current proposal is mostly aimed at preventing such cases, but it is controversial. Besides Russian mistrust of US intentions, it is becoming clear that the plan was not properly discussed or coordinated between the White House, Pentagon and CIA before presenting it to Moscow.

It was rushed because President Barack Obama’s term is ending soon, and it is a last chance for his administration to achieve a significant breakthrough.

Uncertainty

None of the sides in the Syrian conflict know what will happen next. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has practically accused the UN special envoy on Syria of hesitating to start a new round of talks, but the sides are not ready for any talks, with all eyes on the fighting in Aleppo.

Moreover, trust in the negotiation process is already dramatically undermined. Neither Mos-cow nor Washington are sure what to do next.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country is inclined to closely cooperate with Washington, but both sides’ idea of cooperation differs. Kerry’s visit will hardly change any-thing over Syria, and will barely reduce contradictions between the sides.

To resolve the Syrian conflict, an absolute, well-managed ceasefire should be imposed over the whole country. This would put all the power in the hands of negotiators, who would be able to discuss tough issues with cool heads.

Otherwise Syria will remain a playground of great powers, and its people will be the dying losers in this game.
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Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of For-eign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open di-plomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.