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SYRIAN CONFLICT POSES UNCERTAINTY TO CAUCASUS REGION — AZERBAIJANI ANALYST

BAKU, A political settlement of the conflict in Syria is not expected in 2017, bringing the biggest challenge to the Caucasus region, an Azerbaijani political analyst said Friday.

Although the Syrian army, assisted by Russia, Iran and its local allies, achieved major successes in 2016, the devastating war will not be resolved in the near future, Fikret Sadikhov, a professor of the Western University, told Xinhua.

"Against this background, confrontation between the major powers, and especially between Russia and the West, will continue."

The presence of foreign powers in the conflict-ridden country may complicate the battlefield this year, much as it has in years past.

"The conflict in Syria, which has already drawn in major global powers, supporting and opposing President Bashar al-Assad and the myriad rebel groups ranged against him, may involve more countries in 2017," the analyst said.

He stressed that it will inevitably bring negative influence to the stability and development of the nearby Caucasus region, including Azerbaijan.

"Russia unambiguously supports and probably will continue to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey will seek to put an end to the rule of Assad and push for a regime change in Syria," he said.

To make things worse, tensions in Turkey will continue, because this country has become the object of attacks and terrorism, said Sadikhov.

"The rapprochement between Turkey and Russia may also irritate the West, which aspires to see more manageable figures in Turkish leadership."

The UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously adopted a resolution supporting a Syria cease-fire arrangement brokered by Russia and Turkey, as well as new peace talks among conflicting parties set to be held in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan.

However, a number of rebel groups announced Monday that they were freezing talks with the Syrian government, casting a shadow over the ailing peace process in the Middle East country.

The positive side is that Russia's relations with the United States may improve under Donald Trump's presidency, said Sadikhov.

"The United States will take more pragmatic approach to international relationships and ease some immediate tensions with Moscow," he noted.

"There will be more opportunities to talk, and Russia will be able to cooperate more tactically with the United States and its allies as it tries to exact concessions, including the easing of sanctions," said Sadikhov.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK