Having collapsed just over a month ago, peace talks to end the Syrian strife resumed today amid the "fragile" truce brokered by US and Russia. So that makes the following even more intriguing:
- *PUTIN ORDERS `MAIN PART' OF RUSSIAN ARMY TO START SYRIA PULLOUT
- *PUTIN SPOKE W/ ASSAD, TOLD HIM OF DECISION TO PULL OUT: PESKOV
So having stated proof of Turkish troops in Syria this morning, and after the resignation of the Russian navy commander, Putin tells the foreign ministry to intensify their role in the peace process.
Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Viktor Chirkov has resigned and will be succeeded by Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vladimir Korolev, a source in the Russian Defense Ministry told TASS on Monday.
"Chirkov handed in resignation for health reasons due to which he cannot perform the commander’s duties around two weeks ago. Admiral Vladimir Korolev who is now acting commander-in-chief is expected to be appointed Navy’s new commander-in-chief," the source said.
Russia has evidence that Turkish troops are on Syrian territory, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview broadcast on Sunday, accusing Turkey of a "creeping expansion" on its border with Syria.
The comments by Lavrov are the latest confrontation between Moscow and Ankara, after Turkish jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border in November.
"Turkey has started to declare it has a sovereign right to create some safety zones on Syrian territory," Lavrov told Russian television channel Ren-TV. "According to our data, they have already 'dug themselves in' several hundred meters from the border in Syria. ... It's a sort of creeping expansion."
And as WaPo reports, the peace talks resumed today with "No Plan B"
After swiftly collapsing just over a month ago, negotiations to end the civil war in Syria resumed Monday amid a partial cease-fire that has reduced violence but still leaves room for Syrian forces and their allies to wage targeted offensives.
The U.N. envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, praised what he described as greater international support for bringing an end to the conflict, including the "fragile" truce brokered by the United States and Russia that has largely held since taking effect more than two weeks ago.
"These talks are wanted by the international stakeholders," he told journalists at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva.
But he warned of even greater violence should the talks fail, saying that "the only plan B available is the return to war, and to an even worse war than we had so far."
And finally (as Bloomberg reports),
President Vladimir Putin ordered the “main part” of Russia’s military force to begin to withdraw from Syria, saying it’s completed its main objectives.
The pullout should begin Tuesday, Putin said Monday in Moscow at a meeting with Russia’s defense and foreign ministers. A Russian air base and a naval base will continue to function, Putin said. He instructed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to boost the nation’s role in the peace process.
Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad has been informed of Russia’s decision, said Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
Russia’s intervention in Syria swung the war in favor of Assad’s forces, which made major advances in strategically important regions since September. The conflict, which has killed a quarter-million people since 2011, has sparked a refugee exodus that’s roiling European nations and allowed Islamic State militants a bastion from which to expand their regional influence and plot terrorist attacks.
Which seems like a tough proposition since it's tough to "pull out" when you have an airbase and naval base...
- RUSSIA'S PUTIN SAYS RUSSIAN NAVAL BASE AND AIR BASE IN SYRIA CONTINUE TO OPERATE AS PREVIOUSLY
- RUSSIA'S PUTIN SAYS RUSSIAN FORCES IN SYRIA CREATED CONDITIONS FOR PEACE PROCESS
As TASS reports, Putin said on Monday at a meeting with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
"I think that the tasks set to the defense ministry are generally fulfilled. That is why I order to begin withdrawal of most of our military group from Syria starting from tomorrow,"
In Putin's words, during their operation in Syria, Russian military have demonstrated professionalism and teamwork, having performed all the set tasks.
"Besides, our military, soldiers and officers demonstrated professionalism, teamwork and ability to organize combat work far away from their territory, having no common borders with the theater of war," he said.
It would appear that Putin is a) confident that the rebels are as good as wiped out (having been surrounded and on the verge of being routed), b) is confident that Assad is secured, and c) would prefer the narrative to be "success" on his terms as he plays "peacemaker" and withdraws leaving US "aggressors" behind.