Stalemate in Syria continued

The hangover of the joint US-UK-France missile strikes of April 14 on Syrian installations continued to impede any meaningful progress for a political settlement in Syria. The Russians continued their efforts in the OPCW to prove that the allegation of chemical weapons use by Syria was false; they did not make much headway. Meanwhile, Israel took advantage of the stalemate to launch several missile strikes on Syrian military facilities in Hama and Aleppo provinces, where there were allegedly concentrations of Iranian personnel and equipment.

The Russian MFA reported that Syrian forces were achieving success in clearing suburbs in the south of Damascus, forcing back ISIS terrorists. Eastern Ghouta was declared to be largely free of the rebel forces, with Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist units either eliminated or given safe passage to join their compatriots in Idlib province or elsewhere. The Russians continued to accuse the Americans of creating a zone around Al-Tanf on the Jordanian border in southern Syria, including a refugee camp, where militants are allegedly being trained to continue combat operations.

The UN Special Envoy for Syria has not made much headway in constituting the Constitutional Committee to draft a new Syrian constitution. On a working visit to Moscow, President Assad announced that the Syrian government had nominated its representatives to the committee. The process can only continue with the cooperation of all regional powers and the US. The Franco-German initiative to achieve coordination between the “small group” and the Astana process can help, but American support for it is crucial and there is no indication of it as yet. As in the case of Ukraine, reconciliation of intra-European interests and Euro-American perspectives may be elusive.



May 30, 2018

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About the Author

Ambassador PS Raghavan

Former Ambassador of India to Russia; Convener, National Security Advisory Board

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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