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Geneva-2: the unattainable horizon?

November 06, 2013, 14:52 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, November 6 (Itar-Tass) - Another attempt the trilateral Russia-US-UN meeting made on Tuesday to set the date for a peace conference on a settlement in Syria, provisionally named Geneva-2, has yielded no concrete results. Earlier, November 23 was announced as a possible date for the forum, but it is now under threat, as the Syrian opposition has refused to take part.

Experts are analyzing the obstacles in the way of the peace forum and settlement of the Syrian crisis.

“Usually, rival parties begin to seek peace agreements when they are unable to overpower each other. But in the case of the Syrian confrontation the opposition thinks it is still capable of overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad. The latter, in turn, is still determined to subdue the opponents. Peace negotiations will be impossible until Assad and the opposition develop the understanding the war should be ceased”, a retired high-ranking Russian diplomat, Anatoly Adamishin, told Itar-Tass.

The doyen of the Russian diplomatic corps said the Syrian conflict was not merely a civil war but a religious war between the Sunnis and the Shiites, supported by Saudi Arabia and Iran. “Religious wars tend to last long,” Adamishin said, citing the Protestant-Catholic confrontation in Europe that lingered on for decades as an example.

The expert did not rule out that instead of a peace settlement one might see the situation in Syria change for the worse. “Thanks to Russia’s skillful maneuver, Bashar al-Assad agreed to the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons and managed to avert a US air strike on Syrian military and governmental facilities. But this option remains on the agenda. If the US is determined to topple Assad, it will find another excuse for airstrikes.”

The diplomat believes “Russia and the US, as major players in settlement of the Syrian crisis, pursue different agendas, so attempts to convene the peace conference Geneva-2 have been locked in a stalemate.”

The chairman of Russia's Foreign and Defence Policy Council, Fyodor Lukyanov, also believes that “convening the peace conference Genva-2 this year is clearly impossible”.

“The US has shown it is unable to make the Syrian opposition groups attend the conference, as they either refuse to take part in a peace settlement, or put forward unrealistic preconditions,” he told Itar-Tass.

As a separate compounding factor Lukyanov mentioned the adamant position of Saudi Arabia, whose government is resentful about the US refusal to bomb Assad’s positions and continues to arm his opponents.

The expert also highlighted another important factor: “The Syrian president also benefits from delaying the peace conference. He is by no means ready to share power with the opposition, and the opportunity to gain time gives him a certain advantage”.

The expert predicts “neither of the three - Russia, the US or the UN - will cancel the conference Geneva-2 as an instrument to settle the Syrian conflict. A long sluggish diplomatic process is ahead”.

“Geneva-2 is like the horizon - the harder one tries to get closer to it, the father away it appears to be,” Lukyanov said in conclusion.

However, he does not rule out the risk of a sudden surge in tensions as a result of some unforeseeable event or provocation.