TEHRAN (Tasnim) - A political analyst based in London said despite peaceful efforts to resolve the protracted war in Syria, the conflict in the Arab country will be brought to an end on the battlefield not through any peace summit.
"Despite Moscow's strenuous efforts to achieve peace in Idlib, my view remains unchanged: that the conflict in Syria will be brought to an end on the battlefield," Marcus Papadopoulos said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.
"But there is no real alternative because the backers of the terrorist groups in Syria are still aiding these rancid organizations, albeit not to the same level as in previous years because they know that it is but a matter of time until the Syrian military achieves a complete victory," he said, adding, "So Idlib will be free again but only as a result of the Syrian military ('s victory against terrorists), and not through any peace summit."
Papadopoulos is a political expert and the publisher and editor of Politics First, a non-partisan publication for the UK Parliament. He earned his MA in Modern History and his Ph.D. in Russian history from Royal Holloway, University of London. His comments and interviews have appeared in various news outlets, including RT, Al Jazeera, Rossiya 24, TASS and RIA Novosti.
The following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: Turkey recently rejected Syrian government accusations that it is not meeting its obligations under an agreement to create a demilitarized zone around the insurgent-held Idlib region, saying the deal was being implemented as planned. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem had said that Turkey appeared unwilling to implement the deal. What is your opinion about the comments and the future of the Idlib province, which with adjacent areas is the last stronghold of insurgents?
Papadopoulos: Whilst Russia is able to exert considerable leverage over Turkey (stemming from the serious error that Ankara made when it shot down a Russian SU-24 close to the Syrian-Turkish border, in November 2015), the Turks are playing a duplicitous role regarding the demilitarized zone in Idlib. Firstly, Turkey has no intention of allowing the Idlib region to be liberated by the Syrian military because Ankara has plans of its own for the region; namely, carving out what would be a Turkish protectorate in Idlib, similar to what the Turks have established in the north of Cyprus. Turkey, under Erdogan, although it should be said under any leader, has an incessant craving for a Greater Turkey hence all eyes in Ankara are now on Idlib. And secondly, Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group which is indistinguishable from ISIS (Daesh) in depravity and barbarism, is largely, if not solely, under the control of Turkey, with the consent of America. HTS is, by far, the most powerful terrorist group in the Idlib region and is the weapon that the Turks are employing to try and forge a Turkish protectorate in the north-west of Syria. Alas, Turkey will not order HTS to withdraw itself from the demilitarized zone in Idlib because this would undermine its own ambitions in north-west Syria. However, I am of the opinion that Turkey will not be able to prevent Idlib from being liberated by the Syrian military. That is partly on account of Russia having said, unequivocally, that the Syrian state will remain as one, governed by the only legitimate political authority in Syria - the Syrian Government. Russia is, of course, the dominant power in the Syrian peace talks with Turkey - and Ankara knows this. But also, the men and women of the Syrian military - and the Syrian people as a whole - will not rest until every inch of their country is freed from terrorists, militants and foreign armies. Nothing can hold back the Syrian people, whose morale and self-belief is now at its pinnacle.
Tasnim: A four-way summit on Syria recently ended in Turkey's Istanbul without any major breakthrough. In a joint communique following their meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin called for 'an inclusive, Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process' and said conditions needed to be created for the safe and voluntary return of refugees. The comments came as the summit was not attended by any Syrian groups. What do you think about the summit?
Papadopoulos: Russia is going to great lengths to achieve peace in Syria, even with governments which have played an immense role in fomenting the bloodshed there. The Kremlin is trying to save civilian lives in Idlib by resolving the situation there peacefully. Compare and contrast Russia's efforts with the actions of the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, for instance, who have the blood of the Syrian people on their hands through having armed, trained and financed all of the terrorist groups in Syria, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and facilitated their arrival into the country. May the governments in Washington, Ankara and Riyadh be dammed for eternity for the mass murder of Syrians that they orchestrated.
Despite Moscow's strenuous efforts to achieve peace in Idlib, my view remains unchanged: that the conflict in Syria will be brought to an end on the battlefield. I have held that conviction from day one of the Syrian conflict and it has held up so far, much to my sadness because so many Syrian lives have been lost in the fighting. But there is no real alternative because the backers of the terrorist groups in Syria are still aiding these rancid organizations, albeit not to the same level as in previous years because they know that it is but a matter of time until the Syrian military achieves a complete victory. So Idlib will be free again but only as a result of the Syrian military('s victory over terrorists), and not through any peace summit.
Tasnim: Iran, Russia, and Turkey - the three guarantor states of de-escalation zones in Syria - have held several rounds of peace talks in Kazakhstan's Astana and elsewhere to help end the conflict in the Arab country. The fourth round of those talks in May 2017 produced a memorandum of understanding on de-escalation zones in Syria, sharply reducing fighting in the country. What is your assessment of the parallel talks between the three countries on the Syrian crisis and Tehran's role in the peace process?
Papadopoulos: Like Russia, Iran has gone to great lengths to end the fighting in Syria by peaceful measures. Tehran knows the price of war, as evidenced by the tremendous suffering of the Iranian people following the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980. So the Iranian Government is working hard towards finding a peaceful solution to Idlib, in which the region will be freed from terrorists and militants and an end brought to the suffering of the civilian population there, especially ending the tyrannical and barbaric laws which the people of Idlib have been living under since the region fell into the hands of the terrorists. Through the conflict in Syria, Iran has demonstrated to the world its resolve in fighting terrorism and its unwavering support to the United Nations Charter and international law. I only wish that I could say the same about the American and British governments.