The president of the United States and the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, have restarted direct communications with the aim of agreeing a new ceasefire in the civil way of Syria. Tuesday’s call was intended to advance in a more collaborative relationship after the rupture of interactions over the past weeks.
Donald Trump has consented to assign a representative to the ceasefire talks which start on Wednesday in Kazakhstan, in the first conversation between the US and Russia since the first launched a missile strike on Syria as a retaliation for a chemical attack on civilians.
At Kazakhstan, Putin intends to suggest that Russia, Iran and Turkey act as buffer forces in order to separate the government and rebel forces in diverse areas of Syria. However, US and Russian officials show opposite approaches regarding the establishment of safe zones over the country to protect civilians.
Turkey’s relationship with Europe has weakened during the weekend after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish president, blamed the Dutch government of being Nazi and Turkish politicians were banned from a political event in the Netherlands.
While this month German officials have been criticized for forbidding Turkish campaigns to vote yes to the referendum which would expand Erdogan’s powers, the Dutch government impeded the landing of the Turkish foreign minister and escorted the Turkish family minister out of the country.
The government of Netherlands, which has generally considered an open approach to face different attitudes, is in the middle of an assertive election campaign that has immigration as the primary issue.
Elsewhere in Europe, countries such as Denmark, Sweden, France, Switzerland or Austria have backed the decision taken by the Dutch government and made it clear that Erdogan’s campaign is unwelcome there.
European countries have accepted up to 10% of the total 160,000 refugees that were estimated to be moved from unhygienic and overcrowded camps in Italy and Greece, being Malta and Finland the only ones meeting refugee relocation obligations.
This means that countries have only accomplished 8% of pledged refugee resettlements. More precisely, 13,546 relocations have been carried out so far, 3,936 coming from Italy and 9,610 from Greece. The European Commission warns that it will admit “no more excuses”.
While countries such as Hungary, Austria and Poland refused to participate in the European resettlement plan, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovakia and many other are carrying it out on a “very limited basis”.
Meanwhile, the European Commission insisted that the treaty between the European Union and Turkey is working fine a year after its ratification. Crossings from Turkey to Greece have decreased from 10,000 people in a single day to 43 per day currently, with overall entrances going down by 98%.
During the following weeks Greek and Turkish community leaders will carry on negotiations on reunification talks with the object of arranging the first multilateral conference since the partition of Cyprus 43 years ago. These talks are seen as a determining event in the laborious process of resolving such a diplomatic puzzle.
Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akıncı will try to outline the essential features for a possible peace deal after more than 18 months of intense negotiations to settle inter-ethnic divisions. So far, issues of governance, political power-sharing, the economy and the European Union have also been discussed. Nevertheless, security will be the last point to be argued.
The commitment to a settlement from both leaders has helped to increase hopes. At a time where uncertainty is ruling in Europe, there is a belief that a peace agreement would bring stability to the region. Additionally, Antónito Guterres, the new United Nations Secretary General, called it a “historic opportunity”.
The evacuation of civilians and medical staff members from the besieged neighborhoods of the Syrian city of Aleppo has been delayed due to the last airstrikes. Thousands had been expecting to leave after a deal announced at the United Nations.
As reported in the agreement announced last Tuesday by Turkey, Russia and Syrian rebels, the last remaining fighters had to evacuate to rebel-held territory, and civilians had the chance to join them or to move to government-held areas. This meant the whole city of Aleppo would be now in the hands of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
The evacuation plan has been arranged after two weeks of quick advances by the Syrian Army and its allies, who drove insurgents into an increasingly tinier part of eastern Aleppo with the help of heavy airstrikes.
However, due to the last shelling, buses that were supposed to evacuate some of the last civilians and activists left the city empty after waiting for several hours. The Russian Defense Ministry blamed the rebels for blocking the evacuation, affirming that they had “resumed the hostilities” at dawn.
All in all, there was no international monitoring and thus troubles while implementing the deal were not precisely surprising. United Nations officials stated the Syrian government had refused their reiterated demands to observe the process and demonstrated the lack of effective mechanisms to enforce the agreement.