On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a withdrawal of the “main part” of his country’s forces from Syria beginning on Tuesday.
Putin declared that the objectives of Russian intervention had been largely achieved and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been informed of the move.
The announcement comes on the same day that Syrian peace talks begin anew in Geneva – the Russians believing that the Syrian government has avoided a collapse.
Russia’s air base in Hemeimeem and Naval facility in the port of Tartus will continue to operate normally however. Whether or not Russian strikes on rebel forces will continue remains to be seen.
Additionally, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying that Russian forces are willing to coordinate with U.S. lead coalition forces to liberate the ISIS “capital” in Raqqa, Syria.
“We are ready to coordinate our actions with the Americans, because Raqqa is in the eastern part of Syria, and the American coalition is mainly … acting there.”
“Perhaps, this is no secret, if I say that at some stage the Americans suggested performing a ‘division of labor’: the Russian Air Forces should concentrate on the liberation of Palmyra, and the American coalition with Russian support will focus on the liberation of Raqqa.”
These are two major moves by the Russian government in a hotly contested area. Since Russia’s original foray into the Syrian Civil War, many have questioned their true motives, suggesting they were more concerned with propping up the Assad regime than taking out ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
Russia has also called into question the U.S.’s commitment to peace, as we told you about in February:
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, told reporters in a Moscow news briefing that the United States is trying to “sabotage” an already fragile Syrian peace deal.
“by interpreting it from such cardinally different points. By and large, a number of [US] officials in fact attempted to call into question the agreements reached, which were approved by the two presidents”
She of course was referring to Secretary of State, John Kerry and his remarks after both President Obama and President Putin made the agreement to implement the Syrian ceasefire on February 27th by announcing that if this
“Political transition fails to unfold in Syria, Washington has a slew of “Plan B” options.”
Naturally, Secretary Kerry’s comments on “Plan B” were met with harsh criticism as Ms. Zakharova completely denounced any chance of Russia partaking in it and said,
“Despite the reports which started coming from Washington, we are in contact with the American representatives, the process is underway, and is quite active. We are working on the implementation of the main provisions of the agreement.”
Ms. Zakharova also emphasized the importance of Syrian Kurds participating in the ceasefire deal and said,
“We believe that Kurdish representatives should participate in this group [group of the Syrian opposition] and this necessity is proved everyday on the ground in Syria.”
Is this that dawn of a new era of relations with Russia? Sound off in the comments below!