Putin hands the last chance to Obama to work together for peace in the region.
President Barack Obama telephoned on his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to further explore the prospects for a solution to the war in Syria.
The phone call took place in the middle of the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West and the the Munich Security Conference, where Russia’s Prime Minister, warned of the risk of a new Cold War.
However, the two leaders agreed to maintain efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Iraq and pave the way for humanitarian aid to reach millions of people who have been displaced from their homes.
The broadcast by the Kremlin and the White House on the conversation between Obama and Putin emphasized very different points.
According to a statement of the Russian presidential office, Putin stressed the importance of “creating a single anti-terrorist front and renouncing double standards”.
A month ago, during the interview on 13 January between the two leaders, the Russian President had proposed the formation of a united front, but did not reach any agreement since then there had been no progress in this regard.
Washington made no mention of the proposal in its note.
“Both sides have welcomed the results of the meeting of the International Support Group for Syria held in Munich on 11-12 February, confirming the principles and points of resolution 2254 of the Security Council of the UN in what it refers to both humanitarian and a ceasefire as issues to contribute to the onset of a real political process “, noted the Kremlin.
During the exchange of views, Moscow highlighted the need to establish close contacts between the representatives of the defense ministries of Russia and the USA, in order to conduct a planned and successful fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations.
It is unclear how far this assertion means a real coordination of military actions to be taken by both countries in Syria.
The note from the White House, with a cold language, simply noted that both presidents agreed that their countries will continue to communicate about the “important work” of the International Support Group on Syria.
Washington said that during the phone call, Obama reinforced to his Russian counterpart the “importance” to get to the cessation of hostilities pledged on Friday in Munich, open access to humanitarian assistance in the worst-hit areas of the country, but particularly the need “for Russia now to play a constructive role ceasing its air campaign against moderate opposition forces in Syria.”
Complaints like this one by the US is not new. It is the same that is made by all US officials when they talk about Syria, but comes at a crucial moment when Syrian and Russian forces are conducting a full offensive by land and air, backed by Russian bombers against insurgent factions in the city of Aleppo, the largest in the country and which could be the most important for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in the nearly five years of civil war.
Moscow, a close ally of Damascus insists, since it began its air campaign, that his operations target only ISIS positions, but they also include bombings against other anti-Asad jihadist groups like Al-Nusra Front.
But the US-led coalition, which instead attacks Syrian forces, argues that most Russian bombings hit moderate opposition groups.
Moscow’s offensive has helped the regime to advance in the north, west and south.
In addition to the Syrian issue, the heads of state discussed the situation in Ukraine.
Putin expressed his hope in this regard that the authorities in Kiev finally give concrete steps to fulfill their commitments soon, including to establish a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk, provide amnesty for fighters, and give a special status for those zones in the constitutional reform.
All these points were included in the Minsk Peace Accords.
The emergence of Russia in Syrian board has placed it at the center of attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict, which has claimed more 400,000 lives.
After a year and a half of trying to isolate Russia internationally for its interference in Ukraine, Obama urged Putin to respect the ceasefire in the east of the country. But truth be told, the US has been forced to dialogue with Moscow on Syria.
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