On September 8, 2020, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Damascus for the first time since 2012, accompanied by a high-level delegation. His visit reconfirmed Moscow’s desire to consolidate its gains and its military superiority in Syria and overcome the current deadlock in the quest for a political solution to the Syrian conflict, at a time when the Assad regime is facing increasing economic restrictions in light of Washington’s recent announcement that it would be increasing the sanctions imposed against the regime under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (known as the Caesar Act).
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, Organisation for the Liberation of the Levant), formerly called Jabhat al-Nusra (Front of the Supporters), has been intensifying its messages to the international actors in the Syrian crisis with the aim of declaring its transformation into a "moderate" faction, and even a "national liberation movement" like many of the movements that struggle against the occupiers, requiring a response from the international community to this shift regardless of HTS’s ideology as long as HTS ultimately represents – as it promotes – a significant segment of Syrians.
The visit of the Russian delegation to Damascus on 7 September 2020, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, and the meetings it held with regime officials, are of particular importance given the current pace of regional and international interactions on the Syrian issue. In addition, this visit is expected to constitute a turning point in the Russian policy towards the Syrian crisis, and to give indications of the directions of Russia’s policy towards the region, and the form of its relations with the international actors therein. This paper attempts to explore the nature of the changes in the Russian policy against the background of this visit, and the new elements in this policy.
The Eastern Euphrates region has been witnessing tensions between the Arab and Kurdish components that warn of the possibility of collapse of the fragile implicit rapprochement that was built against the backdrop of the defeat of Daesh (the Islamic State, IS), amid Arab demands to strike a balance in the relationship and interests between the two sides and the competition between regional and international actors to gain influence in an extremely important region at the geopolitical level in the Syrian file.
This paper sheds light on the events taking place in the Eastern Euphrates region and the interests and goals of regional and international actors.
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