Geneva’s Syria Meeting Shrouded In Ambiguity


By Mohyeddin Sajedi

Despite all the ballyhoo that followed press conferences of the US and Russian foreign ministers, Hillary Clinton and Sergei Lavrov, following Geneva meeting on Syria, one could concluded that the event was nothing but renewed emphasis on Kofi Annan’s plan to end the Syrian crisis.

The meeting, therefore, started a new phase in the Syrian crisis in which no clear sign of an end to the crisis can be seen on the horizon.

Due to being devoid of any new element, it was clear that the experts meeting in Geneva, which was held one day ahead of the main meeting, has failed. However, the participants had no other choice but to hold the main meeting in the presence of foreign ministers because canceling the meeting would have been the sign of total collapse of Annan’s plan and subsequent civil war in Syria.

The main point in Geneva declaration was the establishment of a new government in the transition period. This issue had been already raised in Annan’s six-point initiative. They were supposed to first announce cease-fire and then arrange for dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition to reach an agreement on free parliamentary election attended by all political groups. Geneva declaration reemphasized this point.

Syria was not represented in Geneva; neither the government had been invited, nor the opposition. Five permanent members of the Security Council along with a number of regional states made decisions for Syria. Neither the government, nor the opposition is now in a position to surrender. This is why both the government and part of the opposition refused to immediately accept the Geneva declaration, asking for more time to consider the issue.

There is no doubt that the domestic crisis in Syria should be solved inside the country, but there is also no doubt that domestic forces have so far failed to find a solution.

As the crisis prolongs, the foreign interventions increase and the interests of the foreign parties manifest themselves in the form of factors for either continuation of the crisis or its settlement. The disputes among the external powers and their consensus is merely positive as they help resolve the crisis not settle it completely. The Libyan model is unlikely to occur in Syria. Therefore, the model can be formulated as internal agreement and external consensus.

Nevertheless, the Geneva declaration is not free of new elements. The participants at Geneva conference scrapped the plan for overthrowing the incumbent Syrian government. Assad’s opponents have to enter negotiations with the government and its representatives. The transitional government is a combination of the opposition forces and the individuals appointed by the government. This can be construed as a middle solution.

The first problem to be tackled is that the Syrian government has repeatedly declared that it will not enter talks with the terrorists. The opposition, on the other hand, has reiterated that they will not negotiate with those who have murdered the people. The problem may be solved with the help of Russia and China, on the one hand, and the US and its allies, on the other hand. The draft of the Geneva declaration made it clear that the transitional period will not involve parties whose existence will harm the process. The provision was omitted upon Russia’s insistence. The Western diplomats advocated the provision as a means for overthrowing Bashar al-Assad. The US and Europe have also agreed on the omission of the mentioned part. This is indicative of a sort of consensus among the foreign forces who have influential role in the Syrian crisis.

The other problem needs to be solved by the opposition. If the Syrian government accepts this plan, it can easily introduce its envoys at the talks. The opposition factions, however, are not in a united front.

The so-called Free Syrian Army is not a unified and organizational military force. It is an umbrella group of armed factions, which are not related to each other.

Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League for Syria Kofi Annan, the Arab League, the United States and Western states are trying to help Syrian opposition groups set aside their differences and present a leader.

Moreover, the Syrian National Council (SNC) is still hobbled by the infighting and fractiousness.

Former SNC chief, Burhan Ghalioun, has regarded the Syria Contact Group meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva on June 30 as a farce in every sense of the word. The new SNC leader Abdul Basit Sieda however views the meeting as positive.

Some 200 exiled members of the Syrian opposition have attended the two-day conference in the Egyptian capital of Cairo to work out a transition plan for how to end to the Syrian conflict under the aegis of the Arab League.

The declaration presented at the end of the Geneva meeting lacks a clearly stated timetable, and mechanism aimed at its implementation. Moreover, it does not name anyone tasked with carrying out the transition plan.

Some world politicians mention Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, and strive to turn the Geneva declaration into a UN Security Council sanction against the Syrian government. Nevertheless, the Russia and China’s stance on Syria would keep such a vision at bay.

Last but not least, it is not clear to what extent the participants and non-participants of the Geneva meeting would contribute to Syria’s transition plan. The next Friends of Syria meeting is scheduled to be held in the French capital Paris on Friday. Friends of Syria offer financial and political support to Syrian rebels, and even funnel arms to the armed gangs in Syria.

Saudi Arabia, a country not invited to the Geneva meeting, has financed the transport of weapons shipment along the Turkish soil and into the hands of Syrian militant groups.

A prominent Iranian political analyst, Mohyeddin Sajedi writes extensively on the Middle East issues. He also serves as a Middle East expert at the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran.

Press TV

Press TV is a 24-hour English language global news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran. Press TV carries news analysis, documentary talk shows and sports news worldwide with special focus on West Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

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