Russia has today submitted to the UN Security Council a draft Resolution making the memorandum on ‘de-escalation areas’ signed by Russia, Turkey and Iran a formal UN document.
As an international agreement between three powers – Russia, Turkey and Iran – the memorandum is already in effect part of international law. However by codifying it through a UN Security Council Resolution the Russians will strengthen its international legal status, making it formally binding on all parties, including those Jihadi groups which are subject to it but which have not themselves signed the memorandum.
Codifying agreements of this sort through Resolutions of the UN Security Council is standard Russian diplomatic practice. The Russians have previously done this with the 2015 Minsk Agreement, the ceasefire agreement they negotiated with former US Secretary of State Kerry in February 2016, and the December 2016 Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement. Codifying these sort of agreements through Resolutions of the UN Security Council is also furthers the longstanding Russian objectivity of reaffirming the centrality of the UN Security Council – of which Russia is a permanent member with a power of vet0 – in international law.
The one thing codifying the ‘de-escalation agreement’ through a Resolution of the UN Security Council will not do is increase significantly the prospects for its enforcement. There is unfortunately a long history of Russian sponsored UN Security Council Resolutions being disregarded by the Western powers and their allies when it suits them, the 2015 Minsk agreement and the February 2016 Syrian ceasefire agreement being cases in point.
However even if the new Resolution is ignored or breached by the Western powers and their Jihadi allies, the Russians would still consider it a worthwhile to propose it. It is becoming increasingly clear that many of the troops and observers who will be deployed to enforce the memorandum will come from Russia. It is important to the Russians that the Russian troops and observers who will be sent to Syria to carry out this mission will be doing so legally under a UN mandate. That way should they be attacked whilst they perform their duties it will be a crime under international law.
On the subject of the Resolution itself, with Turkey and the US supporting it, there is no doubt it will be adopted by the UN Security Council unanimously. Voting is expected to take place on Wednesday.