Is a US move in the Caucasus aiming at Russians' in Syria?
The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to three Caucasian countries, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan is taking place in the middle of the Syrian crisis. It is good to see the U.S. has started to pay attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, which has been a stumbling block on the road to peace and development in the region since the Armenian occupation of Azeri territories in 1993. But Clinton’s visit is inevitably touching on other areas of interest for U.S. foreign policy, which are also in the interest of Russia.
As Clinton arrived in the region, clashes started taking place between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops along the border areas. On Monday there were reports about three Armenian soldiers killed by Azeris, on Tuesday about five Azeris killed by Armenians. Clinton’s statements in Yerevan about Turkey and Armenia “without any precondition” signing the protocols, which have been shelved for years, has been rebuffed by Ankara, which claimed that the obstacle to signing was an earlier Armenian Constitutional Court ruling.
Furthermore, her statement in Georgia protesting Russia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia did not make Moscow happy at all.
But there is always more than one way of looking at international affairs. Here is one: The U.S. Secretary of State is visiting southern Caucasus states, which are still regarded by Moscow as a kind of backyard and soft belly, while Russian President Vladimir Putin is paying a strategically important visit to China at a time when China has been expressing annoyance due to the increased U.S. naval presence in the pacific. Putin has been issuing statements not only on the Caucasus, but also on Syria, where Russia is the only remaining power behind Bashar al-Assad, other than Iran.
This gives another idea about what is happening in the region nowadays.
It is getting more and more difficult to back al-Assad in Syria amid the escalating bloodshed. Perhaps it is also only a coincidence that hours later, while Mrs. Clinton’s statements regarding Russian moves in the Caucasus mixed with remarks on the worsening situation in Syria, an interesting statement hit the wires from Moscow.
The statement was actually given to the Russian ITAR-TASS agency in Switzerland by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov. Despite the official line, underlined once again in Beijing, asking for more support for the Annan Plan on Syria by Russia and China together, Gatilov said that Russia had “Never said or insisted that al-Assad necessarily had to remain in power at the end of the political process” in Syria.
Perhaps this reflects the much-talked-about back door diplomacy between the U.S. and Russia over a Yemen model. This means the leader should leave the country in order not to face an end like Muammar Gadhafi in Libya or Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and open the way for a normalization process in the country. Well, Yemen might not be the best example for Syria, but Gatilov’s statement is the first of its kind showing that things in Syria will not go on forever as they are going now.