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Geneva 2: half-steps on road to peace

January 27, 2014, 13:54 UTC+3 Polishchuk Oksana
Syrian opposition chief negotiator Hadi al-Bahra (C-L) and Syrian National Coalition Spokesman Louay Safi (C-R) leave after a meeting at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva

Syrian opposition chief negotiator Hadi al-Bahra (C-L) and Syrian National Coalition Spokesman Louay Safi (C-R) leave after a meeting at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva


MOSCOW, January 27. /ITAR-TASS/. Representatives of Syria’s government delegation and opposition do not shake hands in Geneva and even staying in one room do not speak directly. They converse through a mediator, the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. But it is pleasant to see that no side has abandoned dialogue.

At the same time, the talks demonstrated “not steps, but half-steps” towards peace, Brahimi said. The opposing sides seem to have agreed on the fate of Homs, a city in western Syria besieged by militants - on a humanitarian convoy and an opportunity to evacuate women and children from that area. There are certain breakthroughs in the issue of exchange of prisoners. At least, the conflicting sides have already been handing over, or promise to hand over, lists with prisoners’ names to each other. However, the talks leave an impression that they are to a greater degree “a war of nerves”. Those who have weaker nerves and who will be the first to withdraw from the talks will lose.

It seems that the opposition makes attempts to call the government delegation’s bluff. Representatives of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces eagerly give interviews to the media, evidently saying provocative things. They say they “test” the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for goodwill and “the real talks” will start for them only when the issue on the creation of a transition governing body, where “there will be no place for Assad and his supporters”, tops the agenda. It is clear that such rhetoric cannot be left unanswered. Syria’s government delegation recalls that the incumbent president has been legally elected by the people and insists that only Syrians should decide who will rule their country.

However, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad unambiguously made it clear that the government delegation had no plans to leave Geneva for no reason as it bore responsibility for the country’s people facing the danger of external military invasion. “We want to discuss any themes,” he told reporters on Sunday. “We hope this is a right road to save Syria from the war which we now witness and from military interference of external players, including Turkey, France, the United States, Saudi Arabia and other countries that want to kill the Syrian people.” There is an impression that if somebody abandons dialogue, it is the opposition that will be doing so first.

If dialogue, as it is planned, continues for a week, its participants will evidently not skip such sensitive matters as the creation of a transition governing body and terrorism. The sides have already expressed their opinions on the first issue, demonstrating absolutely diametrically opposed positions. However, it remains unclear where a discussion on the second issue will move.

“It is terrorism that is going on in Syria,” Mekdad said, adding that at the moment, terrorists from more than 80 countries were acting in Syria. “And therefore the first issue we have to discuss here is terrorism.”

The Syrian diplomat also strongly criticized Turkey and personally, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, announcing him responsible for the bloodshed in Syria. “All terrorists of the world made their way to Syria through the territory of Turkey, or not to exaggerate, most of them arrived through Turkey,” Mekdad said.

Spread of terrorism in Syria is a separate and very sensitive issue. All countries involved in the settlement process realize that the longer a solution to this problem is delayed, the higher the level of terrorism emanating from Syrian territory will be. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with a Russian television channel that terrorists based in Syria had already been creating serious problems for Iraq. “Militants from the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (a jihadist group active in Iraq and Syria) run things and stage terror acts in Syria,” Lavrov said, noting that he saw no place in the negotiating process for such structures as Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and other branches of Al-Qaeda.

“It is important for the political process to be accompanied by a union of healthy forces that think about their homeland and not about the creation of a caliphate in the Middle East or North Africa. It is important to bring these forces together through most different means and to help them fight terrorism. This is the task for the whole region and for the whole world,” Lavrov said.

The Syrian opposition delegation has preferred not to make statements about the fight against terrorism on the territory of Syria so far. This silence can be explained by certain interest of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in activity of terrorist groups in Syria that undermine the government's troops. Even Washington’s representatives not always can exert influence on the opposition. Thus, American diplomats at talks with their colleagues from other countries have repeatedly regretted the lack of full confidence in relations with their partners from the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The latter not once tried to resolve their points of interest with Saudi Arabian representatives behind the United States’ back.

Nevertheless, the peace talks in Geneva continue and this gives hope for achieving peace. Even with evident unwillingness, representatives of Syria’s authorities and opposition try to show each other and the world community that they do not stay indifferent to the fate of their homeland. Nobody expects instant results, but the negotiating process generates hope for the better. Anyway, long “half-steps” to peace are better than a lingering war with unpredictable consequences for the region and the world.


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