Western Leaders May Huff and Puff, but Putin’s Not Going to Give Up Assad

May 1, 2016 in News by D

Source: sputniknews.com

Commenting on the evolving situation in the Syrian conflict, Die Welt suggests that the main conclusion Western leaders should reach from recent developments is that Russian President Vladimir Putin will ‘never’ voluntarily abandon support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Amid pundits’ condemnation of the Syrian government’s possible plans to resume its offensive against Islamist militants in Aleppo province, Die Welt Moscow columnist Julia Smirnova writes that the Russian tone on Syria has been restrained, with Defense Minister Shoigu beginning a recent address on international security by calling for a joint Russian-US fight against terrorism in Syria.

Speaking at the Fifth International Security Conference in Moscow on Wednesday, Shoigu emphasizedthat Moscow positively assesses the joint work with Washington in Syria, and added, in Die Welt’s paraphrasing, that “coordination between the military apparatuses of the two countries, responsible for reconciliation between the parties, will continue.”

At the same time, Smirnova noted, “it’s evident that Russia is proud of its presence in Syria. In the lobby of Moscow’s ‘Ukraina’ hotel, guests of the security conference were greed by photos from Syria – of Russian sappers in Palmyra, Syrians waving Russian flags and raising portraits of Putin and Assad above their heads, of Russian warplanes in action.”

“In the US,” the columnist added, “the situation is assessed quite differently.” In Washington “there is growing concern that two months on, the agreement reached with Russia for a truce between the parties in the Syrian civil war may come to naught. Opposition activists are reporting that the Syrian regime has mobilized troops in the north of the country, outside Aleppo. There fighting continues as if no one had even heard of the truce. On Friday, according to activists, over a hundred people were killed in Aleppo.”

At the same time, “only last week, in an interview with The New York Times, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with concern about Russian heavy artillery being moved up  to the areas of the fighting in Aleppo. Of course, he also pointed out that al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, which is excluded from the truce, is involved in the region. However, there are also opposition groups present which had agreed to the ceasefire.”

“It is doubtful,” Smirnova notes, citing Kerry, “that the Syrian army can accurately distinguish one group from another. In any case, the taking of Aleppo would be an important victory for the regime.”

Earlier this week, Russia asked the United Nations to add jihadi groups Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar ash-Sham to the list of officially recognized terrorist groups operating in Syria. Opposition figures have warned that such a move against the groups, both of which have representatives in the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee, could result in the collapse of the Geneva peace talks.

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