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On Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, United States Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow for peace talks to discuss the future political role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict. The Middle East is experiencing an “unprecedented state of instability” in eyes of many American diplomats. The increase of violence in Syria and in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict reflect this, however, there has also recently been an increase in peace negotiations between parties indicating a desire to resolve these conflicts.
The United States and the United Nations play a large role in these peace negotiations that often receive little attention in comparison to the number of reports on the violence that occurs. Syria, currently, may present the most complicated situation for diplomacy. It is for that reason the peace talks in Moscow, which will focus on Syria, are important. A senior State Department Official noted that heading into peace talks, the United States and Russia “don’t have a full meeting of minds yet (on Assad), we will talk about some of the details of a transition… in the hopes of narrowing the differences between us.”
In preparation for his talks in Moscow, on Monday, Dec. 14, in Paris, Kerry met with diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar. The goal of these talks, as is the building of a coalition in Saudi Arabia of Syrian rebels, is to create a sustainable cease-fire to take place Jan. 1, 2016. The State Department Official, in his comments, went on to say, “We’ll be interested to hear what the Russians have in mind there, given the Free Syrian Army’s concern about how Assad has been treating his own people.”
It was last Thursday, Dec. 10, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, when Syrian rebels met in an effort to form a bloc to stand in opposition to the Syrian government in a new round of peace talks. The formation of this group has been considered by the United States, as a prerequisite to any productive negotiations. Kerry commented on the Riyadh agreement saying it is “an important step forward.” A member of the Syrian National Coalition, Hadi al-Bahra, said, “This is the widest participation for the opposition, inside and outside of Syria, and we have the participation of the armed groups.”
These talks begin as the situation in Syria becomes more complicated. There are reports that ISIS earns as much as $40 million per month from oil revenues. This problem is further compounded by claims that the Russian plane shot down by Turkish forces may have been monitoring the sale of this terrorist-generated oil to Turkey. It has been posited that this oil, which is produced within Syrian borders, is also finding its way to the Syrian government. Putin, perhaps understandingly, has yet to agree to discuss this situation with Turkish officials, a talk that could potentially aid in resolving the issue.
The Syrian-focused peace talks in Moscow, that are due to take place between Kerry and Putin on Tuesday, could prove to be productive if Putin will agree to work with the bloc being formed in Saudi Arabia. This conflict has been complex since its start, but in bringing together many of the different parties to this conflict to form a unified group, a step towards simplification has been made.
By Joel Wickwire
CBS – How Much Does Targeting Oil Sales Hurt ISIS?
Reuters – Kerry to Explore Assad’s Future, Syria Peace Process in Kremlin Talks
The New York Times – Syrian Rebels Form Bloc for New Round of Peace Talks
Yahoo! News – Diplomatic Oil on Middle East’s Trouble Waters
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