Russia Seeks Accord With US on Iran Role in Syria

Russia Seeks Accord With US on Iran Role in Syria
Russia Seeks Accord With US on Iran Role in Syria

Russia is seeking to convince the US to accept an Iranian role in a plan to police safe zones in Syria as a step toward ending the six-year war.

The US and Iran should show "compromise and flexibility" in helping secure the so-called deescalation zones proposed by Russia to shore up a Syrian ceasefire, President Vladimir Putin's Middle East envoy, Mikhail Bogdanov, told reporters in Sochi on Thursday, Bloomberg reported.

Russia is trying to mediate between the US and Iran, though it is under "no illusions" about the difficulties, he said.

"Does anyone think Iran is going to leave this region and Syria, as if you could wave a magic wand and Iran would disappear?" Bogdanov said. "That's not going to happen."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks with US President Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday that he hoped the US would "make an active contribution" to securing the safe zones.

Lavrov suggested the US may "initiate" the process in southern Syria near the borders with Israel and Jordan. Russia, Turkey and Iran signed a memorandum on creating four zones at talks involving the Syrian government and opposition groups in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, last week.

"Russia believes the US should help enforce the ceasefire in Syria, though it would have to gain approval from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to deploy any troops in safe zones," Bogdanov said.

Trump's pragmatic approach as "a businessman who loves practical results" is encouraging Russia to "hope that life eventually puts everything in its place" to help end the conflict, he said.

***Diplomatic Efforts

While the US recognizes the roles played by Russia and Turkey in the Astana peace process, it regards Iran as having "an unconstructive role in the region" that it "can't praise under any circumstances", Bogdanov said.

A compromise that enables US and Iranian forces to help control separate safe zones in Syria "requires additional political and diplomatic efforts" and Russia "will continue to work", he said.

Assad managed to turn the tide of war in his favor after Russia started an air campaign in September 2015, while Iran is an uncompromising supporter of the Syrian leader.

Continued fighting between Syrian government forces and militants backed by the US and its allies, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, stand in the way of a political settlement. The conflict has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced millions.

Putin said after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi last week that he had secured Trump's backing for the plan to establish safe zones.

Russia has long urged the US to join forces with it in Syria. But Trump's campaign pledge to cooperate with Putin on defeating the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group has run into resistance from Republicans and Democrats who are pushing for a harder line toward Moscow over its alleged meddling in the US election, support for Assad and interference in Ukraine.


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