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Assad’s visit to Russia

Nov 26,2017 - Last updated at Nov 26,2017

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s visit to Sochi, Russia, last week is indicative of a new development in Syria.

The last time Assad visited Moscow, in 2015, it was directly after the Russian military intervention in Syria.

This new meeting, two years after the first, was to declare the end of the Russian military presence in Syria, with the fall of Daesh.

Assad also met several Russian generals; it appeared to evaluate the developments in Syria. It likely also included a conversation about preparing for a political solution, now that the military victory has been won.

Moscow is unlikely to have intervened to achieve a settlement to the Syrian crisis. More likely, the intention was to create stronger allies in the region. 

Russia has been successful in that endeavour with Turkey and Iran, as can be seen at the Astana summit.

This trio is likely to push for their agreed-upon outcome at the Geneva summit, where the future of Syria is decided.

The key obstacles to a political solution included Turkey’s former anti-Assad position and the numerous armed but uncontrolled groups that existed in Syria.

The Astana summit focused on technical measures, such as the ceasefire that led to the de-escalation zones, but the outcome is clearly political. 

Russia recognises the importance of the Geneva summit, as a legitimate solution must come from a formal UN process. So the efforts in Astana and Sochi are designed to arrive in Geneva with a political solution that enjoys support, at least from the three allies.

The Russians managed to make several regional and international countries involved in Syria shift their position more in line with Russia’s and put an end to the armed groups in Syria.

Those groups are now united in an opposition political group prepared to participate in legitimate political processes. 

In addition to the military achievements, which gave it political influence, Russia managed to weaken the diverse opposition groups, which forced them to join ranks.

The meeting between Putin and Assad suggests the basis for an enduring political solution in Syria has started.

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