Moscow visit consolidates al-Assad’s legitimacy as a “Russian-made” president
Enab Baladi – Jana al-Issa
In an official visit that lasted for two days, and according to the Russian protocol, in receiving state leaders, the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, arrived on March 14 in Moscow.
It was not clear during the first hours of the visit, following the reception that al-Assad had not received in more than a decade, that the visit was at Moscow’s request. Rather, it suggested that it was a working visit through a huge delegation of a “legitimate president” of a country whose movements had never been dictated to him.
Ahead of Turkish elections
Al-Assad’s visit came on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the Syrian revolution and more than a month after the devastating earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey.
The timing of Russia’s visit also came in light of the efforts led by Moscow to hold a four-way meeting between the deputy foreign ministers of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Russia in the face of a situation that is “blocked” by the regime, which depends its participation in the four-way meeting on obtaining Turkish guarantees of withdrawal from northwestern Syria.
Dr. Nasr al-Youssef, expert in Russian affairs, linked the timing of Assad’s visit to Moscow to the Turkish elections in the first place, adding that the Russians are very interested in supporting the position of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and are keen on his success in these elections.
Al-Youssef believes, in an interview with Enab Baladi, that Russia is keen on the Justice and Development Party extracting the Syrian card in general from the hands of the Turkish opposition before the elections. Therefore, it summoned al-Assad to extract concessions from him regarding the conditions that he put in front of an agreement formulated by Russia.
The file of rapprochement between the Syrian regime and Turkey topped the agenda of the talks between Putin and al-Assad, as it was talked about through several media interviews that al-Assad conducted with Russian media the day after his meeting with Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Al-Assad said from Moscow, in an interview he conducted with the Russian Sputnik agency, that his meeting with Erdogan is linked to reaching a stage in which Turkey is clearly and without any ambiguity ready for a complete exit from Syrian territory, stopping “supporting terrorism,” and restoring the situation to what it was before the start of the war in Syria.
Regarding the upcoming meeting between al-Assad and the Turkish president, Chagri Erhan, a member of the Security and Foreign Policy Council in the Turkish presidency, said in early March that the meeting’s occurrence before the presidential elections in Turkey, scheduled for May 14, is “unlikely,” adding that Erdogan does not oppose such a meeting in principle, but the circumstances of “the devastating earthquake changed everything.”
Maan Talaa, a political researcher and director of research at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, told Enab Baladi that the timing of al-Assad’s visit to Moscow carries several messages.
The first is related, according to recent indicators, to the developments of the file of rapprochement between the regime and Turkey, and days after there was talk of a quartet meeting of the deputy foreign ministers of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Russia, with the aim of advancing the file forward.
Talaa also considered that the visit has a clear indication from Russia, stating that despite its preoccupation with the Ukrainian scene, it is still sticking to its choices in the region and its political stances amid the developments taking place in the Syrian file that followed the earthquake.
According to Talaa, since the Syrian regime is also interested in the intimations and messages associated with the image, it may seem that setting the date for Putin’s meeting with al-Assad on the anniversary day of the Syrian revolution is not a coincidence.
The director of research at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies has also pointed out that the regime is taking advantage of the visit on this day to “announce its victory by opening up to a broader umbrella, such as receiving it as one of the presidents with all prevailing diplomatic ceremonies and norms.”
Protocols and ceremonies
Unlike his previous visits to Russia, al-Assad received an official reception at Vnukovo International Airport, according to the Russian protocol in force for receiving presidents. Before the meeting with Putin, he visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, according to the protocols in force in Russia.
His reception as part of the presidential reception ceremonies is the second of its kind since 2011, preceded by an official reception during his visit to the Sultanate of Oman on February 20, 14 days after the devastating earthquake.
An expert on Russian affairs, Nasr al-Youssef, considered that the official reception that the Russians were keen to give to al-Assad stems from a purely Russian interest aimed at showing that they view him as a “legitimate Russian-made president” and to “impose international respect and appreciation” on the decisions that will result from this visit.
Perhaps the single most obvious link in al-Assad’s moves, whether in Muscat or Moscow, is the growing interest in obtaining “political legitimacy,” according to Talaa.
These moves come as part of intense diplomatic efforts to make political relations with the regime a “fait accompli” rather than a path that faces many challenges and obstacles.
|The current rapprochement of some countries with al-Assad comes as a result of three actions:
Maan Talaa, Political researcher
The delegation accompanying the head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad, to Moscow included the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad, the Minister of Presidency Affairs, Mansour Azzam, the Minister of Defense, Ali Mahmoud Abbas, the Minister of Economy, Samer Khalil, the Minister of Finance, Kinan Yaghi, and the head of the State Planning Commission, Fadi al-Khalil, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, Qais Khader Amin, al-Assad’s advisor, Luna al-Shibl, and the regime’s ambassador to Moscow, Bashar al-Jaafari.
Economic affairs took part in presidential and bilateral talks between ministers from the Syrian and Russian sides.
The results were summarized by al-Assad’s announcement that the two sides would sign an agreement in the field of economic cooperation in the coming weeks after planning to complete 40 investment projects in the fields of energy, industry, transportation, and housing construction.
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