While its war rages in Ukraine, Russia is struggling to stabilise its conflict-battered satellite in the Middle East, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, is meeting his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, in Moscow on Tuesday. Syria wants assurances that Russia will not divert more forces away from Mr Assad’s civil war to the front in Ukraine. The Wagner Group, a shadowy Russian-backed private security contractor in Syria, has already scaled back its operations. Syria’s cash-poor government also desperately needs grain.
But Russia has demands, too. Turkey’s membership of NATO and location on the Black Sea makes its co-operation critical for Russia’s war in Ukraine. So Russia wants Mr Assad to make peace with his foe, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president. That would require Mr Assad to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees from Turkey and start reconciling with the Turkish-backed rebels in Syria’s north. But so far Russian efforts to push Mr Assad to accept a political settlement have come to nothing.
Source: The Economist, “The World in Brief” email newsletter, 23 August 2022. Photo credit: somewhere in central Petersburg, 22 August 2018, © The Russian Reader
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