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Syria Today – Russia Pushes for Rapprochement; EU Relunctant; Snowfall Hits IDPs

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Russia Pushes for Rapprochement; EU Relunctant; Snowfall Hits IDPs

Today in Syria, Russia has reiterated the need for a meeting, described as “historic,” between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Bashar al-Assad, while the EU has shown reluctance to engage in normalization with the Syrian regime. Within this context, Arabs News has raised the question of whether Turkey might abandon the Syrian opposition while IDPs in Syria’s North suffer under heavy snowfall.

Russia does not give up on Assad-Erdogan reconciliation

Russia would like to bring together Turkey, Syria and Iran in some kind of a historic meeting.

This, according to The Jerusalem Post, could be a step towards normalization between Syria and Turkey. Turkey and Russia have been working on energy talks, and Turkey has acquired the S-400 from Russia, but for Russia, a shift in Turkey’s policies in Syria would be a significant game changer. Turkey is a member of NATO but has worked to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, which potentially helps Russia.

Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian deputy foreign minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa  said in a statement that his government is working on holding a ministerial meeting; we held consultations with delegations from Syria and Iran and are in contact with our Turkish partners through the embassies.

“This work continues. But there is no timeframe yet,” the official said.

According to this report, there are ongoing discussions about some planned meetings in February. However, it is unclear what might take place. Russian, Syrian and Turkish defence ministers met in Moscow in December, a clear signal that Turkey is warming in its ties to Moscow and Syria.

But The Financial Times has a different perspective, as it believes that Turkey and Syria face challenges to mend ties after years of ‘zero trust.’

It quotes a retired Turkish diplomat as saying, “There is zero trust between the two sides, and neither can easily make the concessions that rapprochement would realistically require.”

Will Turkey abandon Syria’s rebels?

The warming relationship between Ankara and Damascus has prompted a question of whether Turkey might give up its allies in the Syrian opposition.

In an op-ed he wrote for the Saudi Arab News, Christopher Phillips, a professor of international relations at the Queen Mary University of London, argues that the remnants of Syria’s rebels in the north are concerned that their long-standing Turkish patron will soon abandon them.

The rebel regions oppose Turkey’s moves to reconcile with Assad. Angry protests broke out in Azaz, and other Turkish-ruled towns after Syria and Turkey’s defence ministers met in Moscow in December, while Syrian National Army factions, HTS and other militias have come out against reconciliation. However, most have been careful not to be too critical of Erdogan.

Despite sharing opposition to a deal between Ankara and Damascus, a reconciliation would likely impact the two rebel areas differently.

Fehim Tastekin of Al-Monitor reports that Turkish officials have mooted the Syrian National Army being integrated into the Syrian Army. This would echo reconciliation agreements made between surrendering rebel groups in Rastan and Deraa earlier in Syria’s war, whereby oppositionists remained in the areas they held, but their units accepted Assad’s rule.

Ankara is well aware of this dilemma, and it is no minor footnote in an inevitable reconciliation between Erdogan and Assad. Indeed, Idlib and HTS’ fate could well prove such an insurmountable problem that it derails the whole process. Erdogan, of course, maybe conscious of this. Much of his courting of Damascus is aimed at winning over anti-refugee voters, and it is unlikely that a full reconciliation deal with Assad will be worked out before the polls in May. After that, provided he is reelected, he will be under less pressure to accept a full abandonment of Idlib and may try to persuade Assad to accept some compromise.

ENKS Waiting For US Presence To Resume Intra-Kurdish Dialogue

The Kurdish National Council in Syria (ENKS) said on Sunday that they are waiting for Nikolas Granger, US Senior Representative to Northeast Syria, to resume intra-Kurdish talks, North Press reported.

Two years have passed since the start of the intra-Kurdish dialogue, which takes place between the Kurdish National Unity Parties (PYNK) and the ENKS parties, with the aim of unifying their political position, many obstacles still remain before a final agreement can be reached.

The PYNK operates within the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), while the ENKS is affiliated with the Turkish-backed opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC).

Granger, during a visit to the Office of the ENKS in the city of Qamishli, on January 11, discussed a number of issues, including the intra-Kurdish talks.

The US envoy made it clear that the US is interested in dialogue between the Kurdish parties, according to Hassan Ramzi, head of the ENKS media office.

EU Reiterates Refusal to Normalize Ties with Syrian Regime

The European Union reiterated on Friday its rejection of any rapprochement with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Head of the EU mission to Syria, Dan Stoenescu, held talks with the head of the Syrian opposition Negotiations Commission Bader Jamous in Istanbul.

In a tweet, Stoenescu said: “We talked about the need to step up efforts to revive the Constitutional Committee and the political process in Geneva.”

“I assured him of the continuous commitment of the EU to the full implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 2254,” he added.

He stressed that the EU rejects any normalization with the regime, the lifting of sanctions or embarking on Syria’s reconstruction before Damascus engages in the political transition process and commits fully to resolution 2254.

For his part, Jamous tweeted that the solution in Syria does not lie in humanitarian aid but rather through a political solution that meets the aspirations of its people.

Any delay in reaching the solution will only deepen the suffering of Syrians inside Syria and abroad, he added.

Civilians in Syria’s tent camps struggle under heavy snowfall

Civilians in Syria’s north are enduring another winter in the harsh weather as heavy snowfall makes life more difficult for those living in makeshift tents.

In a report published by The Daily Sabah, it seems that eesides the risk of tents collapsing, another risk is that the effort of lighting fires to keep warm occasionally results in tents being burned and the burnt commodities within tents, including old clothes, nylon and plastic, lead to various respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis.

In freezing temperatures, children huddle together to warm up, burning pieces of plastic, old shoes and scraps of wood they collect for kindling.

Some tents have collapsed because of the snow.

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