Report

Syria Talks Yield Some Progress, U.S. and Russia to Discuss Next Steps

Proximity talks between the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition continue today in Geneva. U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said yesterday that discussions so far have yielded progress on issues of reducing violence and the provision of humanitarian aid, but that the detention of opposition figures in regime prisons remains a point of tension. ...

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Proximity talks between the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition continue today in Geneva. U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said yesterday that discussions so far have yielded progress on issues of reducing violence and the provision of humanitarian aid, but that the detention of opposition figures in regime prisons remains a point of tension.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Moscow next week to discuss the Syrian peace process. Kerry’s trip follows Russia’s announced withdrawal of much of its intervention force in Syria. Russia has returned approximately half of the fighter jets it had deployed to Syria to Russia, according to estimates by Reuters, though the U.S. military has noted that there is no evidence yet of Russian troop withdrawals. Returning pilots and maintenance crews were met at a Russian airfield for a patriotic demonstration.

Bombing Kills Dozen in Yemeni Marketplace

Though Saudi Arabia reaffirmed its commitment to the ceasefire along the Yemen-Saudi border yesterday, heavy fighting continues elsewhere in the country. At least 41 civilians were killed and 75 others were wounded in a series of airstrikes in Haja Province, in northwestern Yemen, according to a local health official. Many of those deaths were from three bombs that struck a marketplace. The Saudi military says it is looking into the incident.

 

Correction: Monday’s brief stated that Turkey responded to the a car bomb attack in Ankara on Sunday by imposing a curfew on cities in Syria’s southeast. Turkey in fact imposed a curfew on cities in the Turkish southeast.

 

Headlines

  • Turkey has arrested at least 47 terrorism suspects in a series of raids days after a deadly bombing in Ankara on Sunday; 20 people were arrested in Istanbul and another 27 in Kurdish cities in Turkey’s southeast, including a local co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

 

  • Russia said at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday that it would oppose imposing new sanctions on Iran in response to recent missile tests; U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power responded that Russia was “quibbling” and “lawyering its way” out of responsibilities set out in previous resolutions.

 

  • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel to reverse a recent decision to declare about a square mile of the West Bank as part of Israel; U.N. officials expressed concern the move could further exacerbate tensions with Palestinians amid a period of persistent violence.

 

  • The president of Cyprus will argue against the EU-Turkey agreement on refugees in Brussels today, objecting to the deal’s accelerated schedule for considering Turkey’s entry into the union; Turkey’s EU minister responded saying the agreement should not be blocked by the “caprice” of one member-state.

 

  • Prince Turki al-Faisal published an editorial in Saudi newspapers, responding angrily to President Obama’s comments in a recent Atlantic article that suggested the Gulf states are “free riders”; in the article, Faisal stressed Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and aid contributions to Syria.

Arguments and Analysis

Anatomy of an election” (Hossam Bahgat, Mada Masr)

“The revelation that the state had a hand in creating this [the For the Love of Egypt electoral] list did not come as a surprise to many. In the months leading up to the elections, the media had hinted and then explicitly accused unnamed ‘sovereign’ state agencies of interfering in politics, and seeking to shape the first parliament in Sisi’s tenure by throwing their weight behind certain candidates. But the bombshell testimony from one of the people involved in the creation of the FLE was the first public confirmation of the direct role played by the president’s office and General Intelligence — a role that went beyond simply backing selected candidates to build a state-sponsored electoral list. After publishing his statement, Abdel Azim declined to be interviewed, but his testimony encouraged others to recount what they had seen in the run-up to the elections in November and December 2015. Mada Masr spoke with some of them over the last few months. Most of them agreed to tell their stories on condition of anonymity. Together, they offer a portrait of the painstaking, sometimes bumpy process of constructing a parliament loyal to the current president.”

 

Interpreting the Russian Withdrawal from Syria” (Aron Lund, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

“The world is now scrambling to understand what Putin meant and what this means for Syria. There are a few different ways to read the situation, and they are not mutually exclusive. Putin may be telling the truth. The Russian intervention has achieved quite a lot. It has undercut the Syrian opposition, stabilized  Assad’s government, and produced a peace process on more favorable terms for Assad than was previously possible. Perhaps Putin was always planning for an intervention of limited duration and kept Assad informed about this. With a truce in place, now is a good time to start scaling it down. Meanwhile, other forms of support to the Syrian government are likely to continue and, if the peace process collapses, Putin could easily reverse his decision. Remember, the Hmeymim and Tartus bases will remain operational, which leaves Russia with all the infrastructure it needs to resume airstrikes on short notice.”

-J. Dana Stuster

PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images

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