European Union officials are set to put more pressure on a reluctant Russia to push Syria‘s government to end the violence in that country, even as the West and its Gulf Arab allies continue to aid the rebel militias battling the Syrian regime.
The EU-Russia summit in St. Petersburg on Monday focused largely on the conflict in Syria. Moscow has leverage over the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad because they support Damascus with arms and money, just as Washington supports its own favored dictators as clients.
“We need to make sure that Russia is using fully its leverage in convincing the regime to implement [the UN peace plan],” an EU official who declined to be named told Reuters.
“The Russian side has certainly not been very helpful in finding solutions in terms of a political way out,” the official said.
This comes just one day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a conference in Stockholm Russia needs to oppose the rule of Assad and cooperate with a U.S.-led effort to change the regime.
Foreign meddling on behalf of all sides in Syria has been instrumental in prolonging the conflict by emboldening both sides and making a political settlement more remote. Russia is not likely to be persuaded by Western powers to drop its support of Assad, especially since support for the rebel militias – who have also committed serious crimes – from the West and the Gulf Arab states is unlikely to end in kind.
Russia’s stake in Syria provides Moscow with valuable geo-political influence. The only way they would give that up is if they could be assured that Washington and its allies would not try to exploit a political transition for their own interests, which is virtually an impossibility.
Additionally, Russia’s support of Syria is probably one of the primary reasons the U.S. and its allies have opposed direct military action in the form of bombing campaigns or ground troops against the Assad regime.
“We are faced with two prospects,” said Chinese UN Ambassador Li Baodong. “One is bright prospect where all parties in Syria immediately realize full ceasefire and stop of violence, launch inclusive political process and let the Syrian people decide the future of their own country.”
The other, he said, is continued, intractable violence. Which path Syria will take largely depends upon the foreign powers meddling in its internal politics and whether or not they will give up their own interventionist policies in exchange for an end to violence and bloodshed.