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Geneva-2: a long way to peace in Syria

January 23, 2014, 18:13 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

MOSCOW, January 23 (Itar-Tass) - The first day of the Geneva-2 conference on the Syrian settlement in Switzerland’s Montreux, attended by foreign ministers from 40 countries, “confirmed the necessity of a political solution and rejection of the military scenario.” This opinion was voiced on Wednesday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following the so-called “inaugural” session of the Geneva-2 talks.

The Russian foreign minister pointed out that in the course of the past eight months both Russia and the United States have been exerting efforts to make this forum happen in order to put an end to the ongoing Syrian civil war, which erupted three years ago.

Lavrov, US Secertary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have no illusions concerning the chances of quick reconciliation between the battling parties. The Syrian national opposition should be also involved in the negotiating process. For that reason work on prisoners’ exchange lies ahead. Lavrov also hopes to provide for Iran’s participation in the conflict settlement.

Addressing the conference, Kerry said: “Look, negotiations to end wars, particularly complicated, difficult confrontations and conflicts like this, sometimes take a long time. You can go back and look at Bosnia, Kosovo, you can look at other open conflicts, you can go back as far as Vietnam and think of all the hours spent just deciding the shape of the table - I think a whole year before they even began to talk.”

The UN secretary-general supports their opinions. This is what he said on Wednesday, “We don't expect instant breakthroughs for today's conference. No one underestimates the difficulties.”

The word “difficulties” has a soft implication in the current context. The United States with the support of some western countries and the Syrian opposition insists that Syrian President Bashar Assad should have no place in the government of the transitional period, while official Damascus keeps pushing for the right of the Syrian people to form their government independently.

Moreover, Kerry reiterated that the United States reserves the right to use force against Syria, while Lavrov warned the negotiating partners against “the temptation to interpret the Geneva communique in the context of changing the Syrian regime.”

Pavel Zolotaryov, deputy head of Institute for USA and Canada Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with Itar-Tass that “the process of the Syrian settlement is lengthy and there cannot be hasty decisions.”

“The most important aspect of this process is that Russia and the United States define the path to the political settlement of the crisis,” the expert said.

Zolotaryov admits that “tactically, the interests of Russia and the United States do not completely match. But the most important idea is that they match strategically as both Russia and the United States push for political and not military solution of the Syrian issue.”

He believes that the further development of the Syrian conflict settlement will depend on the level of American and Russian cooperation with partners in the Middle East.

“Russia strives for Iran’s participation in the negotiating process. The United States can persuade Saudi Arabia against blocking Iran’s participation in the Syrian resolution,” Zolotaryov said.

As for Kerry’s statement on the possible American use of force against Damascus, retired Maj.-Gen. Zolotaryov called it “a tool of informational influence on the negotiating participants.”

“Kerry’s statement on the possible use of force against Syria is a tool of informational influence on the official authorities in Damascus. But such influence rests on some real plans of the American military,” he said.

“If the plan for strikes against the Syrian governmental and military facilities is still on the table of the US president, then it will remain there until the United States achieves the set goal. Barack Obama tasked the military to be prepared to use force against Syria as well as against Iran, in case previous Geneva accords are breached. This means that the US military still remains in tracks of the set task,” Zolotaryov said.

“Under such conditions, it is more than important for Russia and the United States to jointly seek a political solution of the Syrian conflict, a resolution that complies with the interests of the international society,” the expert concluded.

Andrei Klimov, a deputy chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs with the Russian parliament’s upper house, said: “The fact that the Geneva-2 conference kicked off is definitely a positive fact, because there were concerns that the forum will not take place due to UN secretary-general’s revocation of Iran’s invitation, problems with Damascus delegation’s flight over the French airspace as well as due to numerous ultimatums from the Syrian national opposition.”

Citing Pope Francis’ advice to conflicting sides in Syria, the lawmaker said: “Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue! One cannot say better.”

“If there is a possibility of a dialogue, then it must be used to prevent people from shooting and killing each other. Shootouts may be different. It all depends on whether you are armed with a popgun or a Tomahawk cruise missile! Such a threat must be prevented by the most complicated negotiations at the Geneva-2 conference, which is aimed to provide civil peace in Syria,” Klimov told Itar-Tass.


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