Conflict in the East of Ukraine has lost its degree; Minsk-2 (at least for a while) has frozen it. Meanwhile, on the world map another firing point appeared - Syria. Due to flow of refugees to Europe and expanding of ISIS influence, world leading countries were forced to shift its focus and concentrate on solving the Syrian problem. What is happening in Syria and the Middle East, will Russia and the United States be able to make any compromises, and where is the place of Ukraine in this scenario, told Zakut Salah, head of "Arab House" in Ukraine, and his deputy Dzhaber Zakaria in an interview to 112.ua.
September 21, there was meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Sides stated their intent to coordinate military actions in Syria. In addition, Netanyahu said that Iran is trying to create a second front in the Golan Heights with the support of the Syrian army against Israel. What is your view of the situation? Can we say that more players joined this initially local conflict in Syria?
Zakut Salah: Before discussing this visit, you need to consider the root of the problem in Syria. We know that people want freedom and justice. And we remember how it was in the Arab world, when it was the Arab Spring. But Syria is completely different case than Egypt, Tunisia, or Libya. After the riot in Libya (where this question was discussed, Russia gave its approval), the Americans used it and changed the power of Gaddafi. Now, unfortunately, we see chaos in Libya. Therefore Russia, when the conflict began in Syria, disagreed to the similar outcome. Therefore, from the first days Russia supported Assad’s regime. And now ISIS grabs both Iraq and Syria. Russia considers it a threat. Therefore, in recent years Russia sends weapons, equipment and people to stabilize the situation.
Last year, international organizations, the United States, Europe, the Arab countries have called for a change of Assad’s regime, but Russia was against it. There were Geneva 1, Geneva-2, but to solve the problem of Syria is impossible, because it is an international problem. This is not only an internal conflict due to the fact that the United States plays its role, Russia plays its, so do Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia ...
Russia stated to continue fighting, America stated, "Please, we do not mind. But alongside Israel is." So when Russia climbs directly and frankly, Israel believes that as a treat, and here may be a conflict between Russia and Israel. Therefore, the Israeli Prime Minister visits Putin. They agreed to coordinate military actions.
If there is no political solution to the root of the problem in Syria, chaos in Syria and the Middle East will continue. People who are fighting in Syria from Europe and Russia, when they return home, will not sit still. And the experience in Afghanistan proves it.
If there is no pressure on all factions who are fighting in Syria, chaos will continue.
For more than four years of military action in Syria, an area of government-uncontrolled territories has increased to 70%. Assad’s regime controls less than 20% of the territory, with its push further. Recently, militants from the group "Al-Nusra Front" (Syrian unit of "Al-Qaeda" - Ed.) captured the strategic airbase Abu Duhur. Damascus Airport is lost too. All these factors in a complex section may threaten Syria. Do you believe in such a scenario?
Zakut Salah: If Syria is divided, the chaos will continue. It is necessary to preserve the integrity of Syria. If you divide Syria into pieces, which is also discussed, how it may be controlled? Any of the parts will create a problem. We need not only bombing, we need political solutions. Who suffers in this situation? First of all the Syrian people. The other seek their benefits. For example, the benefit of Russia is to maintain its presence in the Middle East. As well as oil and gas. If gas goes through Qatar - Saudi Arabia - Jordan - Syria - Turkey to Europe, Russia will suffer, because now Europe buys gas from Russia. And if it comes through Turkey, then what to do? Therefore, Russia defends its interests.
The involvement of external factors in the Syrian conflict rises. Apparently, heads of many states are aware that this problem goes to the ranks of priority. We are already seeing that Ukraine does not receive such attention as before. Now all "captivated" Syria, refugees, and all that is connected with the settlement of the conflict in the Middle East. Hostilities lasted for five years, and today we can say only about the escalation of the conflict. What could be the leverage to still find a peaceful solution? September 28 will start a general political discussion in the framework of the anniversary, the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, which will also discuss the Syrian issue. In this context, it is not a coincidence looks Israeli Prime Minister's visit to Russia on 21 September. September 23 should come head of the Palestinian Authority and the President of Turkey. In your vision, can a consensus agreement be reached in principle?
Dzhaber Zakaria: The civil war in Syria continues for fifth year. The large loss of lives, more than 400 thousand, lots of victims, more than 1.5 million injured, more than 12 million refugees and displaced persons. Syrian economy is destroyed. To reach the level of Syria five years ago, now we need an entire epoch.
If the Arab Spring was held in Syria, then all regimes that are subject to the West and America, like Jordan, even a new regime in Iraq, the Gulf States, have collapsed completely. Reactionary forces in the Arab world and the West made a huge destruction in Syria, for Arab nation to never think about any changes. If you want to change - take dictators. There different terrorist organizations appeared. Who created them? Did they come from the sky? This is a long arm of Israel and the West. WikiLeaks wrote about it, it's not a secret.
Russia sent its troops and equipment not for the first time, it lasts for decades. And why now? Because the armed opposition. Indeed, it has recently gained more territories. Assad regime has become weak. Therefore, there is a danger.
If Russia goes from Syria, it is completely out of the Middle East. This is the first thing. And there will be no ambition of "Great Russia". Therefore, it will be there to fight to the last. Secondly, when Russia and the United States sit at the negotiating table, they look "where is mine and where is yours". This is connected with Ukraine. You are disturbing us with Ukraine, we will stand in your way in Syria, because the Middle East is a region of the US’ interests.
Regarding the visit of the Prime Minister and the Chief of Staff of Israel in Russia, it is not the first. In 2013, as was the visit and the reasons for it. There are big differences between Russia and the United States on many issues in the world, except for the security of Israel. In this they agree for 100%. And we come ... Well, there is some misunderstanding, divided their areas of interest. So they came back very happy.
What about the future. Now this is a very black picture. And there are no good prospects for Syria and the Syrian people. September 28, Putin will make a presentation at the UN General Assembly and will also say what can be the solution to the Syrian problem: to hold elections, and the Syrian people will choose. To do this, create a joint government of Bashar al-Assad government and the opposition. Time to resolve this election. This is a good proposal, but can it be implemented in practice?
Previously, the Americans said that the first condition for any settlement is removing Assad. And now - no, this requirement is softened. I believe that the solution to the Syrian issue without Assad is difficult and unrealistic. Therefore, those who participated in the war should be involved in the solution of the world, as many countries in the interests in Syria, and they have not understood each other. Hence, the conflict will continue, and, unfortunately, a lot of time.
There are two clearly interested parties - Russia and the USA, which will set the tone and agenda on Syria. At the same time there is still a painful point - Ukraine. Now ceasefire in the Donbas is more or less respected. Does this mean that the issue of Syria became the number 1, Ukraine goes by the wayside, and due to the fact that it happens an escalation in the Middle East, problem in Ukraine can be resolved faster and easier?Which point will be a priority for these two players - Syria or Ukraine? Or are there two equivalent positions, which will be bargained?
Zakut Salah: In general, they will trade. The difference between a problem in Ukraine and Syria that in the latter case there are Israel and oil in Middle East. Ukraine - this is Europe. Therefore, any problem in Ukraine is not only in Ukraine but also in Europe and in Russia. Ukraine is among them, and transit and all - through Ukraine.
Europe is interested in the decision of Ukraine, or Europe will suffer, if it is a large-scale war. Therefore, I think that the solution to the problem of Ukraine is easier than Syrian. Syria is far from Europe. If they agree, America and Russia, Europe will have a large role to put pressure on them to find a solution.
However, Middle East, Syria, give much broader set of problems. Now Syria is in the first place, Ukraine a little bit biased. But still it is bargaining. Russia and America are playing: hinder us in the Middle East, we will interfere in Ukraine. But not as much as in Syria.
Jaber Zakaria: I agree, Syria and the Middle East are the hot spot. It's not a problem of today or yesterday, but of the last 60 years. There is a principle from the Middle Ages to today: who controls the Middle East, controls the world. And now the United States want to control the entire world for another 100 years. They are very important to strengthen its position in the Middle East, especially in Syria. And of course, there are its allies: Turkey, Israel, and so on. And it is much more important. Ukraine is used as a card in play.
But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia wants to return strong to the world map, to show that it is a player to be reckoned with. Therefore, if the US and Russia agree on Syria, they automatically agree to Ukraine.
And it should be noted that the Americans are not involved, they give the role to Germany and France. The agreements of Minsk-1, Minsk-2, they allegedly solved nothing and watched from a distance, but in the end, trump is of the United States.
In Russia since the Soviet era military base in Syria, Tartus, whic is not just given up. Secondly, Bashar al-Assad is regarded by them as a person loyal to them and appropriate. These are two key positions that they will defend. And by all the direct and indirect methods will try to keep the status quo. Accordingly, for the United States, this position is unacceptable. They are against the first and against the second. That is mutually exclusive positions. How can I find a compromise?
Zakut Salah: Russia will not yield. Because for Russia no matter who is in power. Now it is important because Assad is convenient to Russia. If here appears another ruler, tolerant in relation to Russia, he is welcome.
This is a cake, and Russia wants its piece, this is understandable. Not only America influences in the Middle East, Russia also needs a piece. But America is not ready to give a piece of cake, because there is still Iran as an ally of Russia.
Therefore, Syria - is complex, it is not two players. Israel also plays a big role. And Turkey is playing a role, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon.
If you do not solve the Palestinian problem, it will be always. If the Palestinian people does not receive an independent state, it would still be the problem of the Middle East. And it will be used. Therefore, unfortunately, the image is in black. I do not see the solution, it all depends on many components.
Dzhaber Zakaria: For large players have fundamental interests that they lost and they won. Compromise is always there. War is politics, but in powerful way. But in the end they want to solve, no one wants war for war. Therefore, compromises may have to be. We do not know about it today, but they should be.