Syria Crisis and Region: G20 summit’s decisions to impact S. Caucasus, Armenia

Syria Crisis and Region: G20 summit’s decisions to impact S. Caucasus, Armenia

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Turkey’s Antalya is seeing a G20 summit on November 15-16 as part of which United States President Barack Obama has already met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Experts believe that the summit could decide the fate of a coalition against the Islamic State and ultimately the Syrian settlement, which will have a direct impact on the South Caucasus in general and Armenia in particular.

Armenia is not part of any coalition against the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), although at the level of statements it expresses support for the fight against terrorism. There are two forces fighting against ISIS – a coalition created by the United States, which includes more than 40 countries, and Russia. Moscow tries to involve Armenia in its coalition, in particular by offering to create a joint air defense system and using the airfields in Armenia.

A few years ago, Armenia transferred to Russia the Erebuni military airport in Yerevan, as well as the airport in Stepanavan, which is still under reconstruction. But Moscow cannot yet use these airfields at its sole discretion in international operations.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is expected to pay a visit to Armenia in late November. An agreement on the joint air defense system is expected to be signed in the course of his visit. After that Armenia will automatically become an ally of Russia in the fight against terrorism, and, therefore, will face not only Islamic terrorism, but will also nominally oppose NATO and the West. (The United States and the United Kingdom recently declared Russia as their strategic adversary).

After the November 13 coordinated terrorist attacks in the French capital of Paris experts expected some merger of the efforts of Russia and the Western anti-terrorist coalition. Moscow urged NATO to reconsider its strategy, in which Russia began to be viewed as one of the strategic adversaries. However, Putin did not express readiness to join the Western coalition.

According to the information released by the White House, during their meeting in Antalya, Obama did not offer to Putin to combine the coalition, but instead advised that Russia strike ISIS and not the moderate opposition in Syria.

Earlier, in Vienna, Austria, the foreign ministers of a number of influential states agreed on a plan to resolve the Syria crisis, which implies the establishment of a transitional government and elections within a year and a half under the auspices of the United Nations. No one can predict whether Syria will be able to preserve its territorial integrity during these 18 months. But analysts say that during this period the main acting forces will try to consolidate their positions in the region.

In this regard, the South Caucasus may become a springboard for certain actions in the Middle East. In particular, there is a threat that Russia could use the agreement on joint air defense for the involvement of Armenia in its coalition. There is also a threat that Nagorno-Karabakh may be involved in it. The Days of Artsakh were held in Moscow on November 10-15 and the subject of Russia’s possible use of the newly renovated airport near Stepanakert in the fight against ISIS was addressed during the events.