The Jordanian Role and the Astana Aspiration

By Fahed Khitan

تم نشره في Wed 3 May / May 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Fahed Khitan

The recent phone call between the two presidents of Russia and the United States have restored a significant momentum to the fourth Astana conference on Syria.

The tension between the two countries has gone to an unprecedented level after the US airstrike at the Syrian military airstrip.

The White House knows that there is no other way to contain the catastrophic situation in Syria, let alone end it in the future, without Russia.

The Astana operation was founded, originally, for this purpose; to reinforce the ceasefire in Syria whole, and give the negotiations in Geneva a chance.

In the field, there were many a setback to the realisation of this particular goal.

So far, the Syrian oppositions seems to be unwilling to participate in the Astana process. They have suspended their participation to push the regime into a ceasefire on the many open fronts.

That said, no one wants to see the Astana process die out entirely, for the cost of it will be unbearable for all.

On their part, the Russians have shown readiness and preparation for this round of negotiations, to push the situation a step forward on the ground.

This is the reason why Moscow has proposed to establish four safe zones in Syria, reformulated in a relative proximity to the previous US proposition.

However, the Russians have completely dismissed the idea of placing these zones out of the control of the Syrian regime. The Russians retain the role of the Syrian army, alongside the opposition and an interim monitory force of countries uninvolved in the Syrian conflict.

Expectedly, this proposition has increased in the Syrian opposition’s inclination to partake in the Astana process.

Meanwhile, the US has increased their observatory and monitoring role in the process right after the call between Putin and Trump.

If the Russians’ proposal passed, UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will be sure to make quick steps to bring conflicting parties back to the negotiation table in Geneva.

Sooner than later, hopefully, negotiations will kick off again, on the issues unresolved regarding the four transitional phases, and perhaps, progress will be made.

Practical Russo-American understandings could expedite the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS.

Moreover, it may advance resolutions to the inherent conflictions between Russia and the US on one side, and Turkey on the other, whose insistence is to exclude Democratic Syria Units from all and any military operation. Erdogan has already suggested that Turkish forces join US units in the operation to liberate Raqqa.

In the meantime, the Syrian south will be one of the areas included in Russia safe zones proposition, which is particularly and primarily of high stakes to Jordan.

However, there is very little, if any, indication as to what Jordan’s role is when it comes to implementation.

Notably, it serves Jordan’s strategic interests to reinforce the ceasefire in the borderline areas of Syria, to secure a sustainable truce and quite. This would obligate conflicting faction to keep from any threatening or uncalculated escalation.

Subsequently, this would also ensure that allied military locations are safeguarded, particularly those operating in proximity to the Global Coalition to combat terrorist groups and drive them away from our borders.

Should the parties involved arrive at an agreement on the Russian proposal, Jordan will have to know, beforehand, what role it has in the execution of the scheme.

Either way, this is no reason to worry.

So far, Jordan has succeeded in maintaining a strong relationship with the variety of parties involved in the Syrian crisis, be it the Americans or the Russians alike.

Understandings were sustained in regards to Jordan’s highest interests and security, early on, to ensure the Kingdom is not put on a sudden reroute to collision or peril.

More so, Jordan is present at the Astana process, and will be in on the Geneva talks.

Until then, the Kingdom has and will maintain a close and open channel with the players involved in the Syrian situation, both diplomatically and militarily.

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.