Russia’s loss in Sochi

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

While Moscow is trying to race against time to achieve an “appropriate” peace deal in Syria, Assad’s forces launched 93 raids on Idlib’s countryside, including on civilian neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the Lebanese party Hezbollah shelled the Damascus suburb of Ghouta where 400,000 are besieged.

How is this happening when negotiators are discussing a draft peace? Why do the Iranians, Russians and others think negotiators on behalf of the Syrian opposition dare accept any solution when the message conveyed to the Syrian people is murder, destruction and displacement?

Negotiators at Sochi may think that military escalation is part of the tools to pressure the opposition to force it to accept the deal. They may think that this is what usually happens in wars! However, this is not true in the Syrian case. First of all, fighting will not finalize zones of influence now. Second of all, negotiators cannot sign any deal without local approvals and without the support of regional countries and other major countries. Shelling Syrian cities and towns ruins the Sochi negotiations and does not help them at all.

A surrender agreement

What’s worse than intensifying military operations is the leaked information on the negotiations’ draft. What has been leaked so far is disappointing as it did not include anything that convinces the Syrian people and the world of the seriousness of peace in Sochi. What’s being proposed on the opposition merely imposes a fait accompli that maintains the political regime and the government’s entity. Therefore, it’s merely a surrender agreement. Some may in fact say it is a draft that imposes the fait accompli. We’d respond to that by stating that forcing the Syrians to accept it will prolong the fighting for years and the Syrian regime will lose everything which the Russians and Iranians fought for and gained on its behalf during the past three years.

We’re afraid all signs indicate failure as Damascus’ allies insist on imposing a surrender rather than a peace deal.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Despite our disagreements with the Russians regarding details on Syria, we cannot ignore the significance of the Sochi negotiations and the significance of peace which can be achieved if proposed in a reasonable formula. It’s in the interest of all the Syrian people to end the war and meet their fair and reasonable demands which meet the opposition’s expectations to participate in higher sovereign institutions, secure the region by expelling all Iranian militias and other militias and secure Syria’s independence and sovereignty.

Sochi’s failure means the Russians’ failure. The conflict will further expand because of it. This conflict has actually become more complicated after Turkey got involved in the war – a move that sparked different stances. This is in addition to the dispute with the US which, like Russia and Iran, has become militarily active in Syria’s war.

We know that the Russians have important cards to play, such as their ability to pressure the Syrian regime and Iran, to impose a reasonable solution that’s better than the one currently put on the negotiations’ table.

We’re afraid all signs indicate failure as Damascus’ allies insist on imposing a surrender rather than a peace deal. Delegations will pack their bags and go to Vienna and endeavor on a new peace journey which luck may not be any better than the Sochi conference and previous Geneva meetings.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

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