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Russia has gained upper hand in Syria, Merkel ally says

February 15, 2016 at 10:53 am

Russia has gained the upper hand in Syria and the surrounding region through armed force, a senior conservative ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday, and he voiced doubts that Moscow would respect a truce plan for the war-torn country.

“I think Russia has gained the upper hand in the region and this is by historical measures a novelty. And they have done so by the use of armed force,” said Norbert Roettgen, head of the foreign affairs committee in the German parliament and a member of Merkel’s conservative party.

Speaking at a security conference in Munich, Roettgen said he was sceptical about how Russia would behave in the coming days and weeks, despite an agreement to “halt hostilities” scheduled to begin within a week.

An agreement signed by major powers does not qualify as a ceasefire agreement because it was not signed by the warring parties.

A day after the agreement was signed, Syrian forces backed by Russian air support made gains at the expense of the opposition near the city of Aleppo in northern Syria.

“Russia is determined to create the facts on the ground, and when they have accomplished this, then they will invite the West to fight a common enemy, this is ISIS [Daesh],” Roettgen said, adding that he believes the approach had disqualified Moscow as a credible partner in fighting Daesh militants.

Speaking at the same conference, US Senator John McCain said he does not consider the agreement, which was concluded in Munich in the early hours of Friday morning after nine hours of talks, as a “breakthrough”.

“Let’s be clear about what this agreement does. It allows Russia’s assault on Aleppo to continue for another week,” he said.

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“It is no accident that Mr. Putin has agreed on a cessation of hostilities. We have seen this movie before in Ukraine: Russia presses its advantage militarily, it creates new facts on the ground, it uses the denial and delivery of humanitarian aid as a bargaining chip, it negotiates an agreement to lock in the spoils of war,” McCain said.