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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a USA Thank You Tour event in Orlando, Florida, U.S., December 16, 2016.

    What to Expect From 2017, From Syria to Removal of Anti-Russian Sanctions

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    In 2017, the world will closely watch Donald Trump become United States president, developments in Syria and the elections in Germany and France. Among other important issues on the global agenda will be the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the peaceful dialogue on Syria and Western sanctions against Russia.

    US-Russia Ties Under Donald Trump

    In November, Republican candidate Donald Trump won the presidential election in the United States. The future of Moscow-Washington relations is expected to be one of the foreign policy priorities of the next US presidential administration.

    For the first time in several years, Washington has sent a signal to Moscow that it wants to normalize bilateral ties.

    Donald Trump has repeatedly noted that he wants cooperation with Russia and eyes normal relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Moscow has positively assessed Trump’s intention to normalize bilateral relations.

    Trump and Putin already reaffirmed their readiness to work together to overcome the current crisis between Moscow and Washington.

    Moreover, Trump’s choice for the post of US Secretary of State also reflects new US president’s willingness to break the ice with Russia. ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who Trump nominated for the office, is known for his close business ties with Russia. He is also believed to have friendly relations with President Putin.

    The Crisis in Syria

    The end of 2016 was marked by two major advances in the Syrian conflict, including the liberation of Aleppo by the Syrian Army and the capture of Palmyra by terrorists.

    It was no coincidence though. The Syrian Army and Russian aviation were focused on the operation in Aleppo. Daesh terrorists took advantage of the situation and managed to take control over the ancient city of Palmyra, which was liberated in March.

    Military experts predict that the terrorists could try to develop their advances, with a new offensive on Damascus, Hama and Homs. For the Syrian government, retaking Palmyra is crucial.

    As for Aleppo, the Syrian government will have to demonstrate that it can restore normal life in the city that was under terrorists’ control for over four years.

    In addition, the liberation of Aleppo would allow for Syrian Army’s offensive in northern Syria, in the province of Aleppo and in the neighboring province of Idlib.

    The situation in Syria is significantly influenced by foreign players, including Russia, the US, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Some unexpected alliances would be possible in 2017. For example, currently Russia and Turkey maintain dialogue on the situation in the war-torn country.

    The Future of Syrian Peace Talks

    The recent developments on the ground in Syria presume that in the coming year there will be a chance to overcome the stalemate in the Syrian peaceful negotiations.

    The city of Astana
    © Sputnik / President of the Ukraine Press-Service
    The last round of the talks took place in April in Geneva, but it failed to produce significant results. Since that time, the parties involved have not been able to agree on peaceful consultations.

    On December 9, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that time had come to consider resumption of the intra-Syrian talks.

    Despite all hurdles, there is a real chance that those talks will be revived. Recently, Moscow has maintained intense Ankara-brokered contacts with representatives of the Syrian opposition. Moreover, Russia and Turkey proposed to the Syrian warring parties a new platform for negotiations in Astana.

    The Ukrainian Conflict

    According to the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian government had to implement a series of political reforms in coordination with the self-proclaimed Donbass republics, including a special status for the regions, an amnesty for local militia members and a constitutional reform.

    However, no progress has been made in the outgoing year. In fact, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cannot make serious concessions to the self-proclaimed Donbass republics, due to domestic and foreign pressure, particularly from the US.

    Only two provisions of the Minsk agreements have been officially fulfilled up to the moment. They are a prisoner exchange and withdrawal of heavy weapons from the frontline.

    As for the ceasefire in Donbass, it has been regularly violated throughout the year. At the same time, the contact line between Kiev and the self-proclaimed Donbass republics has been stable since February 2015 and is unlikely to change in the future.

    The consultations of four working groups will continue in Minsk. There will also be new meeting within the Normandy Four format, encompassing Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine.

    Possibly, Donald Trump’s foreign policy will also have an impact on the situation.

    Anti-Russia Sanctions

    The situation with Western sanctions against Russia is directly connected with the Ukrainian crisis.

    The possibility to remove sanctions has been discussed since 2014. There are also opponents of sanctions within the European Union, including Austria, Hungary, Greece, Italy and Cyprus. There also those who believe that sanctions are justified but non-effective.

    As for Washington’s restrictions, there is hope that during Trump’s presidency, the sanctions regime imposed by Barack Obama’s administration could be reconsidered.

    Elections in Europe

    In 2017, two leading EU’s nations, France and Germany, will hold elections.

    In Spring 2017, France will hold a presidential election. According to polls, the candidate most likely to win the race is former Prime Minister Francois Fillon from The Republicans center-right party.

    Fillon has already been labelled as a pro-Russian candidate. However, Fillon believes that France should remain a strategic ally of the US. At the same time, Fillon has criticized the policy of the French government towards Russia.

    Leader of the National Front far-right movement Marine Le Pen, who is coming second according to polls, is also known for her pro-Russian stance. For example, Le Pen has repeatedly called to remove anti-Russian sanctions. She also said that if elected France would recognize Crimea as part of Russia.

    Germany will hold a parliamentary election next year. The new German government will depend on the results of the vote. Leader of the Christian-Democrat Union (CDU) Chancellor Angela Merkel announced she would run for her fourth term.

    The Social Democratic Party of Germany is expected to decide on its candidate in January.

    If none of the parties wins an absolute majority a coalition government will be formed in Germany.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    normalization, anti-Russian sanctions, military conflict, talks, election, Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, Francois Fillon, Syria, United States, Ukraine, Russia
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