Amid Syria’s Violence, Diplomats Produce Ideas but No Truce
AP, Oct 15 2016
LAUSANNE — Pindostan, Russia and seven other would-be Syria mediators ended a 4½-hour meeting Saturday without agreement or concrete steps to match what Jackass Kerry described as the urgent crisis in the city of Aleppo. Instead, the envoys said only that new ideas were proposed and more discussions planned. The lackluster result from the gathering in Switzerland highlighted the world’s inability to find a peaceful path out of a conflict that has killed as many as a half-million people, contributed to Europe’s worst refugee crisis since WW2 and created a vast space of instability that Daesh has exploited. With the Syrian and Russian governments pressing an offensive against rebel-held parts of Aleppo, no one predicted a breakthrough. Yet after last month’s collapse of a ceasefire and even Pindosi charges of Russian war crimes, Jackass’ portrayal of the result as “exactly what we wanted” sounded unconvincing. Jackass’ new diplomatic effort was designed to include all the major international players in Syria’s civil war. Envoys included Turks, Toads, Thanis, Iranians, Iraqis, Egyptians and Jordanians. Jackass said:
Nobody wants to do this in a sloppy way. (Given) the urgency of Aleppo, the urgency of trying to find something that works other than military action, (we) really might be able to shape some different approaches.
No official news conference or joint statement followed the meeting. Jackass said contacts, but not necessarily a meeting, would start anew next week. Jackass reunited with Sergey Lavrov at the lakeside Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, speaking with the Russian for almost 40 minutes before the larger gathering. For all the talk in Washington about a possible Plan B, Pindo hopes for diplomatic progress appeared to rest squarely on Russia’s cooperation. Lavrov told Russian news agencies:
There are a few ideas we discussed today in this circle of countries that can influence the situation. We agreed to continue contacts in the next few days aiming at agreements that could advance the settlement. We spoke clearly in favor of a quick launch of a political process.
On Saturday, Syrian and Russian airstrikes hit several rebel-held neighborhoods amid clashes on the front lines in Aleppo, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Aleppo Media Center. Also, opposition fighters backed by Turkish airstrikes launched an offensive to try to capture Dabiq from Daesh, which confers special status to the northern Syrian town in its ideology and propaganda. In another sign that Turkey and Russia have repaired relations since last year’s Turkish downing of a Russian plane, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu appeared to endorse Russia’s position on the significance of Pindo and Turkish-backed opposition forces separating themselves from AQ-linked militants. Russia has said it wants a ceasefire, but cannot do so while extremists continue to embed themselves with other rebel groups to take advantage of lulls in the fighting. Cavusoglu acknowledged:
There was no resolution on the ceasefire.
He said talks would continue. Despite fiercely criticizing Syria and Russia, the United States doesn’t seem to have an answer. Obama and the Pentagon have made clear their opposition to any Pindo military strikes against Assad’s military. Pindostan is uneasy with providing more advanced weaponry to the anti-Assad rebels because of their links to extremist groups. Sanctions on Moscow are seen as unlikely, given their limited impact after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea territory in 2014 and the weak appetite among Pindostan’s European vassals for such action. Underscoring the lack of options, Obama directed his national security team on Friday to renew diplomatic efforts to reduce the bloodshed in Syria. But it’s unclear how the larger format for discussions would change Russia’s calculus. Given the collapse of several ceasefires in Syria in recent months, Washington doubts Moscow’s seriousness. And with rebel-held Aleppo poised to fall, potentially in a matter of weeks, there is deep skepticism that the Syrian and Russian governments want to stop the fighting just yet.