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Putin's Frenetic Day of Syrian Diplomacy

Kremlin website shows Russian leader acting decisively to consolidate Syrian truce

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The Russians are working hard to consolidate their diplomatic gains following the US Russian Joint Statement on Syria.

To get a sense of the furious pace of their diplomacy, consider that Putin spoke to Obama on the telephone on 22nd February 2016 and - according to his website - to Qatari Emir Tamim Al Thani on the same day, whilst today (24th February 2016) he has spoken on the telephone in rapid succession to Syrian President Assad, Saudi King Salman (who is due to visit Moscow in a few weeks), Iranian President Rouhani and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The one leader with a key role in the Syrian crisis Putin did not speak to was Turkish President Erdogan. 

Following the Turkish downing of the Russian Su-24, the Russians have severed contacts with Erdogan and he must be seething at the way in which he is being isolated and kept out of the discussions. 

Directly following these conversations Putin reported to Russia’s Security Council, which will have reviewed the whole state of play in the Syrian conflict following the US Russian Joint Statement.

It is impossible not to draw a contrast between the purposeful pace of this Russian diplomacy with the passivity shown by Washington.

On 23rd February 2016 Obama held a video conference to discuss Syria with Cameron, Hollande and Merkel.  However there is no information he spoke to the key Middle East leaders whose countries are directly involved in the crisis.  His last conversation with any one of them was the one he had with Erdogan on 19th February 2016.

Of course it is possible Obama has spoken to the Middle East leaders and that the White House is not reporting the fact.  Such things do happen, but it is not obvious why they should in this case.  

Given their key role as allies of the US, and given the importance of the Syrian conflict to each one of them, one would expect the Saudi King, the Israeli Prime Minister and the Turkish President to welcome hearing drectly from the US President at such a time, and wanting the fact they had heard from him to be made known.  

If Obama has not called them - as is almost certain to be the case - they are likely to be annoyed and offended, resenting the way he ignores them, taking their opinions for granted.

It is impossible to avoid the impression that in diplomacy it is the Russians who are making the running. 

Not for the first time in this conflict the Middle East leaders must be contrasting the energy - and courtesy - they see coming out of Moscow, with the passivity and aloofness coming from Washington.

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