Despite no formal bilateral talks taking place between President Putin and President Trump during the Asia-Pacific Co-operation summit in Vietnam, both nations approved a joint statement released on Saturday. The statement, released by the Kremlin, outlined bilateral cooperation and agreement to support existing military communication channels and work to defeat the Islamic State in Syria, and ultimately seek a political solution under the guidelines of the Geneva peace talk process. Specific mention was made of the the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the need for constitutional reform to allow for free and fair elections, under UN supervision, in which all Syrians inclusive of the diaspora are able to participate in.
Although official comment has been sparse from both sides, all commentary has shared an upbeat tone, reiterating the need to deescalate and resolve the Syrian Civil Conflict. A senior US State Department official said that the joint statement “indicates a commitment to get this to a political reconciliation and peace process. That serves their [Russia] interest, it serves our [US] interest.” Donald Trump shared this optimistic tone, tweeting “…We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” Later he commented that the agreement is “going to save tremendous numbers of lives.”
Undoubtedly cooperation between the two states to commit to achieving and sustaining a peaceful resolution in Syria, although overdue, is a vital step in order to end the war. And perhaps just as important as the speed in which the Syrian crisis must cease is the nature in which the conflict ends. As recent military endeavours in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, a comprehensive and cohesive contingency strategy is required to ensure that conflict resolution post-combat is sustainable for the people of Syria. As such, the Russian-US agreement that there is no military solution for Syria should be seen as a symbolic bolster for a reduction in violence, and eventual achievement of stability and peace.
The Syrian Civil War, which has been waged for over six and a half years until the present day, is the greatest humanitarian blight of this decade. According to Amnesty International and the UN the war has taken the lives of over 300,000 people, forced 4.8 million out of Syria and displaced 6.3 million internally, with 13.5 million in need of assistance. Disagreement between Russia and the US has played a great role in the protraction of the conflict, as the former remains the Assad Regime’s main ally whilst the latter leads a coalition that performs air raids to back various rebel opposition groups.
Although great challenges lay ahead on the path to a peaceful, egalitarian Syria, it is important to acknowledge the value of positive and cooperative dialogue between Russia and the US. It can be such subtle-seeming changes within the intricate dynamics of war that effect the environment in which a conflict exists. The statements release of intent for a political solution by both states follows a successful first meeting of Putin and Trump in July, which lead to the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria. Though prediction is a futile game in the realm of international relations, positivity and optimism guided by realism is imperative. Hopefully the release of the joint statement marks a turn towards easing of the Syrian Civil War.
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