The Associated Press is reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to a ceasefire in Southwestern Syria covering the borders with Israel and Jordan.
The deal marks a new level of involvement for the Trump administration in trying to resolve Syria’s civil war. Although details about the agreement and how it will be implemented weren’t immediately available, the cease-fire is set to take effect Sunday at noon Damascus time, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the cease-fire publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Jordan and Israel also are part of the agreement, one of the officials said. The two U.S. allies both share a border with the southern part of Syria and have been concerned about violence from Syria’s civil war spilling over the border.
The deal is separate from an agreement that Russia, Turkey and Iran struck earlier this year to try to establish “de-escalation zones” in Syria where violence would be reduced. The U.S., wary of Iran’s involvement, was not a part of that deal. Follow-up talks this week in Astana, Kazakhstan, failed to reach agreement on how to finalize a cease-fire in those zones.
Previous cease-fires in Syria have collapsed or failed to reduce violence for long, and it was unclear whether this deal would be any better.
I highlighted the important parts of this. With Israel and Jordan on board this might have a prayer to succeed for longer than 24 hours. And could be the beginning of the end of hostilities in Syria.
I’m on record saying that I believe Putin and Trump want a grand peace bargain in the Middle East. But, the road to that will be tortuous. The plan seems to me to be Russia guaranteeing Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, while Trump guarantees Israel and the GCC.
With increased tensions between Syria and Israel near the Golan Heights, this agreement was the right first step in de-escalating things and laying the groundwork for expanded talks in the future.
This is a good first step as their initial meeting went on nearly four times longer than it was scheduled to.
Putin is notorious for cutting short meetings he feels are unproductive. He works constantly and knows how tight his schedule is. So, Trump getting his ear for two full hours and putting the final touches on an agreement, any agreement, is a good thing.
This is especially true given the obvious Russia-baiting that Trump engaged in the day before in Poland.
The second part I highlighted was about the breakdown of the Astana peace process. Turkey scuttled not only those talks but also Cyprus reunification talks this week. The Cyprus talks were hold-overs from the Obama administration as Victoria Nuland was offering Erdogan full control to stop Russia’s gas ambitions in the area.
The Astana talks are more troubling. And it definitely signifies that Erdogan wants more assurances that the Kurds will not be united before agreeing to anything further.