Through the month, Russian MFA has been claiming “positive momentum” in the military and political situation in Syria, including successes in key battles in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. The main thrust of the Syrian Army, with Russian cover, is to link up with its besieged garrison of about 10,000 troops in Deir ez-Zor. Besides liberating this town, it would prevent the ISIS fleeing from Raqqa and Mosul from establishing a new base in Deir ez-Zor.

The veteran journalist Robert Fisk has written that the Russians and Americans may have quietly agreed that the Syrian Democratic Force – a US-backed collection of Kurds and Arab fighters – would take Raqqa, while the Syrian Army focussed on Deir ez-Zor. This is consistent with Russian MFA’s briefings, which describe the successes of the SDF in advancing towards Raqqa and confirm that a 4,000-strong Tribal Army formation, fighting alongside the SDF in Raqqa, has been actively supporting Syrian army operations at the junction of Raqqa and Aleppo provinces.

At the same time, Russia expressed “outrage” at the US shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet over western Syria. Its Ministry of Defence called off (yet again) the deconfliction arrangement with the Americans and declared that it would target all air activity over Western Syria. Some back channels may be moderating these public postures.
Russia has announced that the next meeting of the Russia-Turkey-Iran Astana process will be held on July 4-5. It was reported by Russian MFA that Secretary Tillerson telephoned FM Lavrov on June 26 to discuss the Syria political process, including the forthcoming Astana meeting.

 

 June 30, 2017

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About the Author

Born in 1955, Ambassador Raghavan holds a B.Sc. (Honours) degree in Physics and a B.E. in Electronics & Communications Engineering. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1979. From 1979 to 2000, he had diplomatic assignments in USSR, Poland, United Kingdom, Vietnam and South Africa, interspersed with assignments in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi. From 2000 to 2004, he was Joint Secretary in the Indian Prime Minister's Office dealing with Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Energy, Space, Defence and National Security. Thereafter, he was Ambassador of India to Czech Republic (2004 - 2007) and to Ireland (2007 - 2011).

He was Chief Coordinator of the BRICS Summit in New Delhi (March 2012) and Special Envoy of the Government of India to Sudan and South Sudan (2012-13). Ambassador Raghavan conceptualized and piloted the creation of the Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in MEA, which implements and monitors India’s economic partnership programs in developing countries, with an annual budget of $1-1.5 billion. He headed DPA in 2012-13. From March 2013 to January 2014, he oversaw the functioning of the Administration, Security, Information Technology and other related Divisions of MEA. Since October 2013, he was also Secretary [Economic Relations] in MEA, steering India’s bilateral and multilateral external economic engagement. Ambassador Raghavan retired from the Indian Foreign Service in January 2016, after serving from 2014 as Ambassador of India to Russia. Since September 2016, he is Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India.

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