Who Stands to Lose From the Syrian Ceasefire?

Saudi Arabia has demonstrated its dissatisfaction with the Russian-American deal on ceasefire in Syria, the Valdai Club experts believe.

Last Saturday, the truce in Syria brokered by the United States and Russia came into force, but the next day Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Moscow and Damascus of violating the ceasefire and threatened with an “an alternative plan for Syria without Bashar al-Assad". The Valdai Club experts commented on this statement in an interview with valdaiclub.com.

“The ceasefire is not so good for the interests of Saudi Arabia in Syria,” said Mustafa El-Labbad, founder and director of the Cairo-based Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies. “The allies of Saudi Arabia are not in a winner position, so I think the ceasefire will contradict their ambition to change the balance of power in Syria,” he went on to say.

He was echoed by Andrey Baklanov, deputy chairman of the Association of the Russian Diplomats. “My impression is that they had prepared this statement beforehand to demonstrate that they were not satisfied with the recent developments,” he said.

“Yesterday top Russian and American diplomats made it clear that we do not accept [such demarches]. We firmly believe that all parties involved must learn to work in the new conditions. Instead of planting false information, they must use the channels made available by Russia and the United States,” Baklanov stressed.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia does not want to use these channels, the Russian diplomat said. “They want to try to undermine respect for this agreement, drive a wedge between us and Americans and create an unfavourable political and psychological background for the implementation of decisions called to prevent escalation of hostilities,” he said.

When answering a question about how substantiated the Saudi accusations of Moscow and Damascus could be, El-Labbad said he had no information about violations of the ceasefire. “I have no information about possible violations, what I see is that till now the ceasefire is going well. I think that if by the end of the week the ceasefire will have been holding, it will be a good sign,” he said.

The Egyptian analyst believes Riyadh’s “alternative plan” is most probably bluff. “I do not know what the Saudi “Plan B” is, but I think [the Saudi foreign minister] is bluffing. They can finance rebels or deliver weapons to them. Maybe the plan B is to deliver MANPAD surface-to-air missiles to rebels. But this is a red line. If they cross it, Russia will respond,” he said.

Saudi Arabia cannot affect the balance of power in Syria alone, El-Labbad said. “They will have to enter a coalition with Turkey or the United States. But the US is not willing to confront Russia in Syria to support Turkey and Saudi Arabia,” he pointed out.

“If the Unites States has agreed with Russia on a ceasefire, regional powers have to commit themselves. The logic of international relations is that regional powers cannot force their will upon great powers,” the Egyptian scholar said.

In turn, Andrey Baklanov called on all parties involved to be responsible. “The action plan has been explained and must be adhered to. It would be wrong to predict who and how will try to disrupt the agreement. We should expect all to be ready to use the window of opportunities that has been opened [by the ceasefire deal],” he said.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.