Moscow's military engagement in Syria has "changed the balance of power on the ground forcing the non-radical Sunni opposition to negotiate," the French diplomat said. Above all, Russia is "the only one who is capable of forcing Damascus to engage in talks with the opposition."
The Astana peace process sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran suggests that this assessment is correct. The first round of talks was held in the capital of Kazakhstan on January 23-24, marking the first time that a delegation from Damascus and representatives of armed radical groups fighting to depose President Bashar al-Assad met since the war erupted in 2011.
The document, seen by Sputnik, stipulated that the monitoring group would also facilitate prisoner swaps at its regular meetings, report truce violations to the United Nations and brief the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) on its progress.
Russia's special presidential envoy on the Syria settlement Alexander Lavrentiev called the second round of talks "a step forward," saying that the tensions between Damascus and the opposition appear to be easing. Despite positive developments, direct talks between the two sides are "still far from being possible," he added, citing mutual distrust as one of the key reasons.
Foucher also said that Russia is "the only one capable of finding a way out" of the devastating Syrian conflict because "it has military and political strength." He pointed to the fact that Turkish leadership no longer calls for Assad's immediate resignation as proof of Moscow's influence.
Previously, Ankara was one of the key supporters of radical groups intent on deposing the Syrian government. This is something that Moscow has been fiercely opposed to. Russian officials have repeatedly warned that operations similar to NATO's military intervention in Libya lead to dire consequences.
Foucher echoed these sentiments, saying that Russia has been set against a regime change scenario in Syria which would see the country follow Libya's fate. He also explained that Moscow decided to launch a military operation in Syria out of concerns that the war-torn Arab country could turn into a breeding ground for terrorism.
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