British media revealed advanced negotiations between the Syrian president Bashar al Assad and leaders from Wagner group, two weeks ago, about a deal to turn Syria into the group’s largest base in the world, but the latter’s rebellion thwarted the plan.
Last Thursday, the British ITV network said that Assad and Yevgeny Prigozhin are close to agreeing to increase Wagner presence in Syria from 4,000 to 70,000 in the coming months.
It added, quoting Western diplomatic sources, that the armed rebellion led by Prigozhin in Russia last Saturday torpedoed the advanced negotiations between Assad and Wagner Group.
According to the British report, the aim of the plan was to make Syria the main global base for the organization.
In 2015, the Russian forces, after their military intervention in Syria, sought the help of the Wagner group to fight alongside them, and entrusted them with a number of tasks, most notably the protection of oil fields and phosphate mines, especially in the Syrian desert.
The report indicated that Assad regime was willing to agree to increase the number of Wagner fighters in Syria by more than tenfold, considering this step as a way to strengthen relations with the Kremlin, but was surprised by the group’s attempt to stage a coup in Moscow.
The report indicated that, less than two weeks before the outbreak of the rebellion, Prigozhin’s representatives in Damascus were negotiating with the Syrian regime a new agreement that would increase the arrangement of Wagner group’s forces in Syria in the coming months from about 4,000 fighters to nearly 70,000.
According to the report, the Assad regime stipulated that at least half of Wagner forces would be stationed in Syria, to be deployed in hot areas, especially in the northwest of the country, while the rest would be sent to Ukraine, Mali, or the Central African Republic.
The Assad regime was represented in the talks by Yasser Ibrahim, a prominent political figure who was described as a “follower of Assad,” along with officials from the presidential palace.
The report pointed out that the plan for the deal planned and the cornerstone laid during a visit by the Syrian president to Moscow last March.
According to the report, the Syrian leadership aims behind the deal to win contracts worth millions of dollars with Yevgeny Prigozhin’s companies, in addition to satisfying the Russians and not risking the direct military support it receives from Moscow.
The report indicated that the current contracts estimated at tens of millions of dollars per month, and allow the commander of the paramilitary forces to exploit some of Syria’s natural resources, such as the oil and gas industries, in return for the presence of his forces on the battlefield.
However, and just hours after the Wagner forces stopped advancing towards Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin went to Damascus and personally informed Assad that the Wagner Group would stop operating independently in Syria.
Numerous reports also indicated that the Russian military police in Syria had arrested many Wagner fighters.