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Russian Diplomatic Offensive to End Syrian Conflict Gathers Pace

Week of contacts, interviews and meetings suggest intense efforts to rally international community aganist Islamic State

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

This has been a week of intense diplomacy in the Syrian crisis.

Directly after Putin’s speech in Dushanbe setting out Russia’s position on the Syrian conflict, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad gave a lengthy interview to a group of Russian television stations.

Assad broke no new ground.  As we have discussed previously, his offer to enter into a power sharing arrangement with his opponents was one he first made – under Russian pressure – as long ago as 2012.

His interview should instead be seen for what it was – a public restatement of his offer and of the Syrian government’s position made in close coordination with Moscow in order to lend support to the planby  Putin outlined in Dushanbe the previous day.

Assad’s interview was followed by more talks between Kerry and Lavrov, with Lavrov proposing that the US and Russian military talk directly with each other in connection with the Syrian conflict.  Kerry subsequently made known his personal support for the proposal.

Anxious not to be left out, the Saudi King telephoned Putin the following day.  Officially the two discussed the recent tragedy in Mecca and the Palestinian Israeli conflict.   In reality it was almost certainly Syria that was the main topic of their discussion.  Significantly , the two agreed to remain in regular contact thereafter.

With Putin set to attend the UN General Assembly session and rumours circulating that he might mean Obama there, the Russian diplomatic offensive to get negotiations going  between the Syrian parties in order to form a common front against the Islamic State is gaining momentum.

All of this meanwhile is going almost completely unreported by the Western media, which prefers to speculate on various Russian grand strategies - that find no support in anything the Russians have ever said -  whilst busily posting satellite photos of building works at an airfield near Latakia, ignoring Russian denials that they are building any sort of air base there.

It is too early to predict the outcome of this latest Russian diplomatic offensive.  The US has clearly been wrong-footed by it, as its muddled response and disinformation campaign both testify.  However, given the US’s single-minded focus on overthrowing Assad, the prospects of success do not look high.

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