‘Assad – so long as he remains in power - has to be part of Syrian solution’
RT: What do you think about the deal? Do you think it’s got promise to work?
Lord Peter Truscott: Well, I think you’d have to be blind to think there weren’t challenges with this ceasefire. But on the other hand, you’d have to be heartless not to welcome it, given the loss of life and the millions of Syrians that are being displaced throughout the period of this civil war.
First of all, it’s not even called a ceasefire; it’s called a ‘temporary cessation of hostilities’ given the idea that there just may be a pause in the fighting between the various groups. It clearly doesn’t cover all the opponents in the Syrian conflict: Daesh, the extremist group, and Al-Nusra Front linked to Al-Qaeda, are not included in this. So, there are clearly issues with this ceasefire.
But on the other hand, it’s a necessary step, it’s a positive step towards a resumption of peace talks in Geneva and this ceasefire really has to take place before that occurs. As your report indicated, there are other positive elements to it, as well. There will be a UN task force to monitor the ceasefire, and the Russians have set up this coordination center and a hotline with the US to try and ensure that the ceasefire holds.
So there are challenges, but there are also positive elements, as well. I think that the international community will obviously hope that it will hold, but it is going to be difficult to maintain it on the ground. The other element which of course is problematic is that all sides - the Syrian government and the rebel groups - have said this temporary cessation of hostilities is conditional, so that all sides are holding back and saying that if they don’t like the way it is going, they might retaliate against their opponents. We are not in the clear yet. It is very clearly an early stage in this diplomatic process.
RT: Is there anything that the big parties can do, Russia or America, to make sure people do abide by this ceasefire, or cessation of hostilities? Is there really any hope of it working?
PT: Well, I think all sides need to maximize their influence on the parties in Syria on the ground. The Russians with the Syrian government and President Bashar Assad; the Americans, and others with some of the rebel groups that they’ve been supporting. The necessity here is to maintain the pressure so that the peace talks restart and there is a political solution. And this also goes back to the resolution of the UN Security Council before Christmas that called for the setting up of a constitution and parliamentary and presidential elections in Syria, alongside a ceasefire. And it’s that political process that needs to be put firmly on track.
RT: The large sticking point is what happens to Bashar Assad, whether he stays or he goes. Do you see this as a crux of the matter here in Syria?
PT: I don’t think anyone is wedded to Assad himself staying in power, and the Russians have made that clear, as well. It’s inevitable that whilst he’s in power he has to be part of the solution. The Syrian armed forces, together with the Kurds, are the most effective forces on the ground to tackle the extremists like Daesh and the Al-Nusra Front. While the Syrian government is there you have to negotiate with it. But there may be a political transition that takes place over a period of time. But I think that’s the political-diplomatic element. The first priority is to bring about ceasefire, then to have negotiations, and also of course to eliminate the extremists from Syria, particularly Daesh and the Al-Nusra Front, the extremists, who really represent an existential threat to the West.
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