Home » Press » Publications and Reports » “The eighth round” – Zelimkhan Mutsoyev’s article – on whether the next negotiations in Geneva will stimulate the process of a political settlement in Syria

“The eighth round” – Zelimkhan Mutsoyev’s article – on whether the next negotiations in Geneva will stimulate the process of a political settlement in Syria

Civil war in Syria for six years remains one of the main topics of the international agenda. In 2011, demonstrations against the ruling Baath party led by President Bashar Assad, which developed into a military conflict, divided the country into a number of opposition groups seeking the resignation of the incumbent president and carrying out reforms. In addition to the “moderate” opposition, Islamist groups emerged, which posed a threat not only to the government of Syria, but to the whole world. A few years later, thanks to the efforts of international players, first of all Russia, the military tension of the conflict was asleep, IGIL (banned in the Russian Federation) and radical groups were practically crushed. But still the country can not come to an agreement and peace.

Attempts to collect for discussion representatives of the opposition and the incumbent authorities were made repeatedly. In 2015, Russia initiated the first inter-Syrian dialogue in Moscow, where, following the second round of negotiations, the so-called Moscow principles were developed – recommendations for the settlement of the conflict.

In 2016, there was a series of Geneva peace talks aimed at reconciling the warring parties. Success in Geneva can be considered acceptance from the Russian Federation and the United States of the resolution on a cease-fire for government and opposition forces, while the fight against terrorist groups continued.

But can the Geneva talks be effective? More likely no than yes.

The problems started at the start – from the moment the participants were invited. Russia did not see constructive negotiations without representatives of the “Democratic Union” of the Syrian Kurds, which strongly disliked Turkey. In turn, the opposition groups on the wave of the February military successes of Russia and the SAR in the course of the attack on Aleppo refused to participate, the negotiations reached a deadlock, the dates had to be postponed. Negotiations resumed in March, but the process did not go directly, but through the special representative, which excluded an open dialogue. The demands of the opposition did not differ from the moment of the beginning of the conflict (Assad’s resignation, democratic reforms, change of constitution). They were joined by a bloc from the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, which from the very beginning supported the opposition. Russia expressed itself in favor of consolidated opinion and spoke about the right of the Syrian people to independently determine the further political path.

Prior to the April round, parliamentary elections took place in Syria, where the National Progressive Front bloc supported President Assad, thereby demonstrating to the world the legitimacy of the incumbent government. And most importantly, the efficiency of political institutions. The opposition and the “sympathizers” of the state did not recognize the results of the elections.

The main platform of the inter-Syrian negotiations in 2017 was Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Representatives of the government of Syria and a delegation of the Syrian opposition were again invited to the talks, where for the first time the parties were able to sit at the same table. Russia, Iran and Turkey participated as consultants, the United States acted as an observer. The main issues discussed were the regulation of the ceasefire by Russia, Turkey and Iran. Against the background of successful advance through the territories of radical groups and the liberation of Palmyra, the consultative countries took the initiative to create zones of de-escalation. This is an important step towards reducing the military nature of the conflict between the forces of the government and the moderate opposition, a move towards a peaceful life for the Syrian people. The main advantage of such meetings can be called openness of the two sides and the opportunity to communicate without intermediaries. The next stage should be the next round of Geneva peace talks, which will be held on November 28.

As for the main task of the US in Syria, it is necessary for them to remove Assad from power by any means and create a kind of coalition regime, controlled from the outside. Today, everyone recognizes that Russia is a major geopolitical player in the Middle East. We played a key role in defeating IGIL on the territory of Syria, we were able to put the conflicting sides of the conflict at the negotiating table, strengthened our relations with Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia to a large extent, and signed the largest military-technical contracts.

For obvious reasons, this strengthening of Russia forces the US to take a number of steps that weaken the influence of our country in the region. One of such tasks is reformatting the peace process in Syria in favor of its own political interests.

Most likely, the participants of the conference in Geneva will once again try to agree on the creation of some kind of similarity of the coalition government, which will include representatives of the Syrian leadership and the opposition. It should be understood that there are enough contradictions between the political, territorial and inter-confessional within the Syrian opposition, there is still no common understanding as to the future state structure of Syria. It is not entirely clear how people who are looking at each other in the gun’s sight yesterday will be able to jointly participate in political processes and reach a compromise in the most complex issues. That is why Russia proposed the format of the inter-Syrian national dialogue, to which it is planned to invite not only the opposition, but also representatives of various Syrian diasporas, faiths and strata of the population.

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