December 28, 2016

LAME DUCK LEFT OUT IN THE COLD: Russia, Turkey Agree On Syria Ceasefire Plan, Snub Washington.

In the latest snub of president Obama and the US State Department, on Wednesday Turkey and Russia reached an agreement for a ceasefire in Syria, Turkey’s foreign minister said, and according to Anadolu News Agency, will aim to put it into effect by midnight. Anadolu, citing sources, said the two countries have reached a consensus that will be presented to participants in the conflict on expanding the ceasefire that was established in Aleppo earlier this month.

There may be a hurdle however: Ankara would not budge on its opposition to President Bashar al-Assad staying in power. The comments by Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday appeared to signal a tentative advance in talks aimed at reaching a truce, but the insistence that Assad must go will do little to smooth negotiations with Russia, his biggest backer.

Not content with isolating the US, Russia, Iran and Turkey also made a mockery of the UN when they said last week they were ready to help broker a peace deal after holding talks in Moscow where they adopted a declaration setting out the principles any agreement should adhere to. Arrangements for the talks, which would not include the United States and be distinct from separate intermittent U.N.-brokered negotiations, remain hazy, but Moscow has said they would take place in Kazakhstan, a close ally.

“There are two texts ready on a solution in Syria. One is about a political resolution and the other is about a ceasefire. They can be implemented any time,” Cavusoglu told reporters on the sidelines of an awards ceremony at the presidential palace in Ankara.

While Turkey’s insistence has been that Assad must go, perhaps in legacy support of US and NATO positions, with Cavusoglu saing that “the whole world knows it is not possible for there to be a political transition with Assad, and we also all know that it is impossible for these people to unite around Assad”, Turkey’s position appears not set in stone, and last week, Russia’s foreign minister said Russia, Iran and Turkey had agreed that the priority in Syria was to fight terrorism and not to remove Assad’s government.

Elsewhere today, John Kerry is still scheduled to make a speech outlining his vision for the Middle East — which Russia has already rejected.

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