Spotlight: Peace prospect in Syria still marred by multiple factors

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(London Post – BEIJING, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) — Despite agreement by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to push for a nationwide cessation of hostilities in the war-torn country, other developments suggest that a cease-fire, even a temporary one, could be hard to come by.

Over the weekend, Turkey continued to bomb northern Syria, citing needs to counter offensive by Kurdish fighters based in the area.

The shelling triggered strong condemnation from the Syrian government. But Turkey says it will not allow the Kurds in Syria to expand toward the Turkish border, as Ankara fears any separatist Kurdish movement in Syria would inspire similar moves in Turkey, where nearly 22 million Kurds reside.

Various senior Turkish officials have said that the country, together with Saudi Arabia, could launch a ground operation against the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria.

That makes Turkey the third country expressing interests in participating in ground battles in Syria. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had offered to send special operations forces into Syria.

A day after confirming that it has sent aircraft to the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, which is used by NATO forces to strike IS targets in both Syria and Iraq, Saudi Arabia on Sunday said any move to deploy Saudi special forces into Syria would depend on a decision by the U.S.-led coalition.

The kingdom is willing to contribute ground forces to the coalition, but “the timing of this mission is not up to us,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh with his Swiss counterpart.

Meanwhile, leaders of the United States and Russia agreed Sunday to remain in contact on the important work of the ISSG.

Besides the two heavyweights, the ISSG also groups Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, among others.

In a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Barack Obama urged Russia to play a constructive role in Syria by halting its air campaign against what he called Syria’s moderate opposition forces, according to a statement of the White House.

The two leaders discussed the decisions and agreements made at the Feb. 11 ISSG meeting and stressed the importance of rapidly implementing humanitarian access to besieged areas of Syria and initiating a nationwide cessation of hostilities, the statement said.

The Kremlin described the phone conversation as “frank and business-like” and said that both leaders supported the tasks of achieving cease-fire and delivering humanitarian aid. They agreed to intensify cooperation so as to implement the consensus reached at the ISSG meeting.

Putin noted the need to establish regular working contacts between the defense ministries of the two countries in order to ensure a “systematic and successful” fight against terrorism, said the Kremlin in a statement.

Separately, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev commented on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks about the possibility of sending ground troops to Syria.

“He should not have said that for a simple reason: If all he wants is a protracted war, he can carry out ground operations and anything else. But don’t try to frighten anyone,” Medvedev told Euronews television.

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