Russian Chess in the Middle East - Part I

Sunday, August 26, 2012 |  Elizabeth Blade  

Syrian authorities are ready to negotiate with the opposition and “form a government of national unity,” said the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil, while rejecting President Bashar Al Assad’s departure as precondition for talks during a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday.

Although this is the first time that a high ranking official has declared the regime’s willingness to sit down for talks with the rival forces trying to oust the regime from power, the US dismissed Jamil’s remarks as “insignificant,” with the State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland insisting on Assad’s resignation as the only way out of the stalemate.

So far, the demand has been met with fierce objections by the Russians and Chinese, who call for the establishment of a transitional government involving all of the conflicting parties. Moscow also opposes US demands for a no-fly zone over Syria that might pave the way to a military intervention – something that according to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could lead to a “catastrophe”.

As the conflict in Syria enters its 18th month, Russia and the West have failed to reach an agreement that would stop the continuing bloodshed in Syria. The world powers are also struggling to find a solution to Iran’s suspected nuclear program. Even though the recent round of talks between the Islamic Republic and P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) were deemed a “failure,” Moscow called such an approach as “hysterical rhetoric,” suggesting that Russia is anxious to find a diplomatic solution to the impasse.

In an attempt to understand Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East as well as Moscow’s motivation to back regimes perceived by many as oppressive, Israel Today talked to leading experts in Russia and Israel.

Check back tomorrow for the continuation of this important story.

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