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Geneva-2 conference to begin in Montreux

January 22, 2014, 5:58 UTC+3 MONTREUX

The conflicting Syrian sides meeting face-to-face for the first time in three years

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MONTREUX, January 22, /ITAR-TASS/. For the first time over the past three yeas of the crisis in Syria, representatives of the country's government and the opposition will gather in this Swiss city where they will be able to discuss straight and openly the issues that give rise to differences over the future of the Syrian Arab Repubic.

It took eight months to fix a date for the forum which has been dubbed "Geneva-2". Sometimes, it seemed thst the conference, which had been proposed by Russia and the United States in May last year, would not be convened at all. However, the Syrian sides, not without assistance from the international community, still mustered strength to launch a dialogue and tried to stop the conflict, to which more than 100,000 people had fallen victim, according to the most conservative estimates.

The first day of the Geneva-2 is assigned for speeches by Foreign ministers, officials and delegations from almost 40 countries.

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter will declare the forum open as representative of the host country. UN Secretay-General Ban Ki-moon and the foreign-policy chiefs of Russia and the US will then take the floor. After that, representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition will mount the rostrum. Priority in which their speeches will be made has not been fixed so far, just as that of speeches to be delivered by the chief delegates of the leading world and regional powers.

Some aspects still remain unclear up to now, which emphasizes once again the utterly complicated situation in which preparations for the peace conference were being made. For instance, even now, less than several hours prior to the opening of the forum, one cannot say exactly which particular oppositional forces have arrived in Motreux.

At the very last moment, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCROF) agreed to participate in the forum after Ban Ki-moon had revoked an invitation to Iran, because statements from Tehran, he said, were indicative of its refusal to support the Geneva Communique dated June 30, 2012. Russia's Foreign Ministry analysts referred to that move by the Administrative Head of the UN as an erroneous decision, considering the role of the Islamic Republic in the region. They stressed, however, that this would not be an obstacle to the convocation of the peace forum.

The present conference is called upon to elaborate the provisions formulated in the Geneva Communique. The basic principles set out in the document are to start a direct dialogue between all Syrian political forces interested in a settlement of the conflict, cease bloodshed, ensure access to humanitarian aid for all the victims of the combat operations between the government and the opposition.

In prospect, the Geneva Communique envisages the formation of a transitional governing body. At the same time, the document contains no conditions connected with identities of transitional government members.

Talks as such between representatives of the Syrians, who found themselves at the different sides of the barricades, are not expected on Wednesday. As Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remarked at a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday, the peace forum in Motreux is of "ceremonial nature", although a very important one".

Intr-Syrian talks proper with the participation of RF and US experts are to begin on January 24 in Geneva and will continue for 7-10 days under the coordination of Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint representative of the UN and the League of Arab States for Syria. It is not ruled out that, if necessary, the level of representatives of international mediators in Geneva will be elevated.

Thereby the Geneva-2 will become a test of the extent to which the Syrians and and the countries supporting the conflicting sides will have enough flexibility to save the country from a break-up, prevent the conflict's spreading over to countries in the region and keep it from radicalization and Islamization which the UN had been warning about since long ago. That this may happen is indicated by the experience of Iraq and Lebanon, which neighbour on Syria, and where terrorist acts had sharply gained in scope. At the same time, there is enough skepticism about about the ability of irreconcilable adversaries to achieve peace.

Professor Jordi Tejel at the Department of International History of the Geneva-based Graduate  Institute of International and Development Studies, in an Itar-Tass interview, skeptically estimated the chances that a peaceful unravelment will be found in Montreux. However, the expert hopes for perceptible shifts in the humanitarian sphere. "I do not think that a peaceful solution will befound at this meeting," he said. "The present talks start in Geneva in two days' time and as a results of the talks we we, probably, may expect an agreement on refugees or, to be more exact, on opening an access to certain areas of Syria for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and assistance in an exchange of prisoners-of-war".

"The Geneva-2 is unlikely to end with principled solutions although the positions of states have changed since the Geneva-1 days," Tejel pointed out. "Turkey, for example, strives for cooperation with Iran to stabilize its southern neighbour. Iran has also improved relations with Western countries since (President Hassan) Rouhani came to power inTehran. On the other hand, the US has also come to realize that the most urgent thing now is to alleviated the position of allies which received more than two million Syrian refugees".

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