08:34 GMT05 July 2020
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – A comprehensive settlement to the ongoing conflict in Syria can only be achieved by recognizing the Syrian government's sovereignty over the country, the former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia told Sputnik.

    “A return to respect for Syrian sovereignty is the sine qua non for peace in that country,” former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman told Sputnik on Friday, as the war entered its ninth year.

    READ MORE: Russian Security Services: Daesh Picked N Afghanistan as New Centre of Caliphate

    March 15 marks the start of eight years of upheaval in which the United States, Saudi Arabia and their allies funnelled arms, training and financial support to opposition groups in Syria seeking to topple the government of President Bashar Assad.

    The Daesh* terror group took advantage of the chaos to at one point seize half the country before the Syrian Army backed by Russian airstrikes played the key role in turning the tide.

    Freeman said recognising the authority of the Damascus government over the entire territory of the country was central to finally establish a stable and lasting peace. But the United States, Israel and Turkey still refuse to acknowledge this reality, he cautioned.

    “The prospects for this in the near future are poor, given great power rivalries, the Israeli and American obsession with Iran and its presence in Syria, and the unwillingness of Israel, the United States, and Turkey to respect Syrian sovereignty,” he said.

    Freeman noted that peace remains difficult to achieve after eight years of war that has cost an estimated 600,000 lives and generated millions of refugees.

    “From the outset, the strife in Syria was as much a congeries of proxy wars supported by foreign powers as it was a many-sided internal power struggle,” Freeman said. Therefore, “Any resolution of the conflict must have buy-in from external as well as domestic Syrian actors.”

    Iran and Russia supported the government of President Bashar Assad rather than any of the radical Islamist factions arrayed against it, Freeman pointed out.

    On the other side, “The United States, Turkey, the Gulf Arabs, and Israel all attempted to overthrow the government by supporting its opponents, some of whom were terrorists as well as enemies elsewhere of those supporting them in Syria,” he said.

    The Trump administration halted aid to them when it became apparent that it had not only been ineffective but politically embarrassing and counterproductive, Freeman noted.

    “The approach followed by the United States and other foreign opponents of the government in Damascus failed to overthrow it. Assad's regime survived to play a key role in strangling the so-called ‘Islamic Caliphate,’” he said.

    READ MORE: US Forces in Eastern Syria Made 'Gold for Safe Passage' Deal With Daesh — Report

    Foreign assistance to anti-Assad forces both widened and extended the conflict, greatly increasing the number of dead, wounded and displaced Syrian civilians as well as casualties among those actually engaged in the fighting.

    “It helped to prolong Syria's agony rather than to produce a resolution of the conflict, which remains elusive,” Freeman concluded.

    Meanwhile, Daesh has picked Northern Afghanistan as the new centre of its caliphate, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) first deputy director General Sergei Smirnov said on Friday following a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (SCO RATS) council.

    *Daesh is a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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