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Hurdles to Syrian peace: bringing irreconcilable parties to negotiating table

January 29, 15:20 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© Alexander Kots/Komsomolskaya Pravda via AP

MOSCOW, January 29. /TASS/. The main task of the organizers of consultations in Geneva on the Syrian settlement is to bring the currently irreconcilable parties to the conflict to the negotiating table to make the process get off the ground.

The meeting expected in Geneva on Friday between representatives of the government of Bashar Assad and the opposition will focus on agreeing the composition of the meeting’s participants rather than on implementing a road map of the Syrian conflict settlement elaborated in November by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). Heated debates have been raging for months among the main participants in the ISSG - Russia, the United States, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran - about the compilation of the negotiators’ list.

The Syrian governmental delegation at the consultations will be headed by Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. The Syrian opposition will be represented by two delegations in Geneva, with one of them called "the Moscow list" by experts. The second delegation comprises members of the groupings Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam whose militants are considered as terrorists by official Damascus and were earlier categorically rejected by Moscow for participation in the Syria talks.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has said the negotiations will be attended by an opposition group supported by Riyadh. The Saudi delegation established in December by the Higher Committee for Negotiations in the capital of Saudi Arabia includes 35 groupings, from moderate opposition groups to radical Islamic factions. A special position is held by Iran, which stands against the participation of "terrorists in new masks" in the consultations.

After lengthy approvals, no place was found for Syrian Kurds at the negotiating table due to pressure from Turkey. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said, "the negotiations cannot yield the result we want, namely, the final political settlement in Syria" without the Syrian Kurds who make up about 15% of the country’s population and their Democratic Union Party.

A participant in the Geneva consultations compared the list of invited negotiators to a dish with a multitude of ingredients.

President of the Institute of the Middle East Yevgeny Satanovsky perceives critically the composition of the negotiators.

"Turkey has cut off the way for Syrian Kurds to Geneva. Saudi Arabia has pushed through a delegation of its terrorists who can quite be put on the Interpol list. What can be negotiated with them? Each side will press for its line," Satanovsky told TASS.

"No one, except Russia, is seriously concerned about the future of Syria and its citizens. The United States is only dreaming about installing its government in Damascus. No one is concerned about the fate of 400,000 Syrians blocked in populated areas of the country by the armed opposition. No humanitarian aid, expect Russian, is coming to them while Washington continues speculations on this issue. The Syrian settlement is an endless process and the current consultations in Geneva during this process are yet another interim stage," the expert said.

Chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy Fyodor Lukyanov compared the efforts of achieving the Syria conflict settlement with a horizon line: the closer it seems, the farther it moves away.

President of the Institute of Politics and Religion Alexander Ignatenko looks at the forthcoming Geneva consultations on Syria more optimistically. "UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has sent out invitations to each participant in an individual manner rather than to whole delegations of negotiators. That is why, it is not finally known who of them will come to the consultations and who will refuse to come. The same Mistura does not rule out that Syrian Kurds may join the negotiations at a certain stage. That is, the composition of negotiators will be changing and it is quite possible that it will become optimal for achieving the result."

"The Geneva negotiations are presumed to last several months rather than a day or two. I do not rule out that finally this process will help carry through the tasks of the Syrian conflict political settlement, the tasks set by the initiators of the current consultations - the Russian and US foreign policy chiefs," Ignatenko told TASS.

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