Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad met, in Sochi, Thursday, to discuss the future of Syria.
Vladimir Putin congratulated Assad for major successes in the fight against terrorism, noting that their military success has opened up the possibility for a political solution.
The Syrian Arab News Agency, a state-run media outlet has a transcript of much of the discussion, and reports that Putin greeted Assad as follows:
“Mr. President, I am very happy to receive you in Russia, and first of all I congratulate you on the coming of the holy month of Ramadan and congratulate you on the great successes achieved by the Syrian Arab army in the fight against terrorism. And due to the efforts of the Syrian soldiers, very important steps were gained during the latest period in order to boost the legislative authority in the country where terrorists were expelled from important regions in Syria, which paved the way to start reconstructing infrastructure in the country after expelling terrorists and putting an end to the threat against Damascus.”
Assad congratulated Putin on his re-election, noting that Putin’s policies and leadership, “satisfied the Russian people”, and gave Russia a bigger place in the international arena.
According to Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, Putin, and Assad:
“have noted the necessity to create additional conditions for the resumption of full-format political process in Syria,”
Assad said he welcomed a political solution with enthusiasm, but noted, according to Sputnik, that:
…it will be difficult to restore the political process in Syria as there are countries that don’t want stability in the country, he added.
“The sides noted the successes of the Astana process and of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, held in Sochi… During these talks, the sides disused the next joint steps. Assad said that stability in Syria is improving, and this opens the door to the political process that started some time ago. According to him, he has repeatedly said at these talks that Damascus has always enthusiastically supported the political process, which should go along with the fight against terrorism,” Assad said at the meeting.
“We know that this will not be easy [to restore the political process], since there are countries that do not want stability to return to Syria. However, together with you and the other partners and friends, we will continue to move steadily toward the peace process and for the sake of peace,” Assad added.
Syria to rewrite the Consitution?
Numerous sources, including official Syrian state media (SANA), have noted that in a major development, Syria will be sending a delegation to the UN to discuss, and possibly amend the Syrian constitution. This, however, is not the first time this was discussed, as Middle East Eye notes this was planned in Sochi as far back as January.
According to Sputnik, “Assad voiced his decision to send representatives to the UN-Constitutional Committee.” Sputnik quotes Assad as saying:
“Today I confirmed to President [Vladimir] Putin that Syria will send a list of its delegates to the constitutional committee to discuss amendments to the current constitution. This will be done as soon as possible,” Assad said in a statement following Russian-Syrian talks.
Vladimir Putin said that Russia welcomes and will support the Syrian president’s decision to send his representatives to the UN constitutional committee.
“Russia welcomes this decision by the Syrian president and will support it in every possible way, bearing in mind the agreements reached at the Syrian people’s congress held a few months ago in Sochi,” Putin said at a meeting with Assad.
Vladimir Putin also congratulated the Syrian president on the victory in fighting against terrorism in Syria. “After the military success in Syria, additional conditions to resume a full-format political process have been created,” Putin said.
“Terrorists have laid down their arms at Syria’s key sites, which allows to rehabilitate Syrian infrastructure, push [terrorists] back, almost halt their activities near the Syrian capital,” Putin said.
Furthermore, RT noted that:
As the two presidents talked about the conditions that would facilitate the peace process development, the Syrian leader said that he had decided to send a delegation to a committee tasked to rewrite Syria’s constitution, which was championed by the UN.
Syrians themselves will build their own future.
The phrase “to rewrite Syria’s constitution” may understandably cause alarm to some people. People who care for the free and independent future of Syria, may worry that Putin and/or Assad are being pressured, and are finally giving into the deep state, in some way, should Syria rewrite their constitution. They may say “No! There is no need for a political solution. Syria should stay the way it is!”
But I am afraid this statement, while good intentioned, is wrong when taken to its natural conclusion. Syria must not “stay the way it is”, she must stay the way the Syrian people choose her to be, using their God-given right to free will, and national self-determination. If the Syrian people choose to make changes to the Syrian constitution, this is the right of the Syrian people, and there is nothing to be alarmed about.
So long as they are not being pressured, there are no signs of a shadow take over, and everything appears to be following the norms of Syrian law, the Syrian people have the right to do whatever they please with the internal structure of the country. That is in fact what the entire war has been about, the right of Syrians to sovereignty over Syria.
If the majority of Syrians choose tomorrow, to establish a Monarchy, a Soviet Socialist Republic, or likewise, if they decided to preserve in its entirety, the current government structure, this is their right. The only concern the international community should have, is to ensure that the will of the Syrian people is being carried out, and the decision is not made by the proxies of foreign governments, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, or separatists like the Kurdish forces.
I know I’ve said this several times now, but the point must really be made: the entire reason the sane world has had their eyes and hearts fixed on Syria, (aside from her crucial positioning), is the entire war is being fought to that the people of Syria can choose their own destiny. It would be counterintuitive to support that, but then dictate to them that they can not change their constitution, even if they legally choose so.
Syria is not a dead fossil, that must be preserved in a museum. She is a vibrant, dynamic, modern, yet still ancient country, that is very alive, and her people have their own hope’s and dreams. It is their Syria, they can do whatever they want, and no true Syrians would ever betray her.
To this effect, it’s counterintuitive to use terms like “Assad’s Syria”, or “Assad’s government” or “Assad’s army” because it’s the Syrian Army, and the Syrian Government, of which Assad is the legal President chosen by the Syrian people. Syria is Syria, as she always was, and her people will decide her future. The purpose of the fight is not to dictate it to them, but to defend their ancient right to make the choices for themselves.
In the same light, there are many people that look at negative international events, and say things like “Why didn’t Putin stop X” or “Why didn’t Russia stop the West from doing X”, or “Russia didn’t stop X, did they give into the deep state?”.
Everyone (especially non-Russians or non-Russian speakers) always likes to impose their own vision of Russia, whether positive or negative. Everyone has their vision of Russia, and they often expect her to conform to it, for better or worse. It must be understood, that Russia is Russia, and Syria is Syria, they are not the Anti-US, or the Anti-West. Russia is not La Résistance.
Russia is not responsible to fix all the worlds problems, Russia is only responsible for the Russian people. Russians do NOT wish to be involved in the West’s culture wars. Please do not assume Russia has a responsibility to sacrifice herself in order to counter some nefarious forces in the world.
Our Russian Orthodox Faith does not teach hatred against any people, and for all the ancient history of Russian statehood, the Russian national consciousness was never directed against another people. Russia’s involvement in Syria has been to save the Syrian people from terror, which could threaten Russia as well. It was a Podvig (valorous deed) not unlike the Great Patriotic War. Russia entered the conflict in Syria to save a brotherly people, not to “counter” the West. People shouldn’t assume Russia is obliged to fight cultural wars or geopolitical battles that others assign to her. Russia is only fighting for Russia.
That being said, it’s important to understand that this is just a report. Let’s not exaggerate, or blow this report out of proportion. There is no guarantee the Syrian constitution will be changed as of now, it’s just important to understand that if Syrians choose to change it, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Syria has changed greatly in the last ten years before the war, building and modernizing.
While I am Russian Orthodox, I have family connections and history deeply rooted in the Antiochian (Syrian) Orthodox Church (it’s the same religion, different countries), and I can say from what I have seen, that Syrians do overwhelmingly support their government and the structure of their country, and do not want it to be changed by foreign powers. That said, the point, is that Syrians, like all peoples, have the right to make their own choices.
As a final note, if you are ever curious about Syria, and want to hear what her people think, you can always try and find an Antiochian Orthodox Church, somewhere near you, and get to know the people. You will learn far more than you can from western media, that is for sure.
You may be surprised how very similar Syrian culture is to yours. After all, Syria was a key part of the Greco-Roman World, and Syrians were a major part of the Eastern Roman Empire, from which Russia got her Orthodox religion. You may find you have closer connections to Syria than you think. As Andre Parrot, the Former director of the Louvre Museum, once said:
“Every person has two homelands… His own and Syria.”