Geneva talks on Syria end without progress
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) - Two weeks of talks on Syria’s political future ended Thursday without making any progress, the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said in Geneva at the conclusion of the eighth round of negotiations.
De Mistura blamed Damascus for the failure of the talks, saying, “I did not see the [Syrian] government really looking to find a way to have a dialogue.”
“It’s a big, missed opportunity, a golden opportunity missed at the end of the year,” he lamented.
The Syrian delegation arrived a day late to the negotiations, which began on Nov. 28, and then left after two more days, protesting the opposition’s refusal to accept the notion that President Bashar al-Assad would play a role in the political transition.
The delegation returned to Geneva earlier this week and met with de Mistura, but maintained its position that it would not negotiate as long as the opposition insisted that Assad step down.
Despite the difficulties, the US has reaffirmed that its policy continues to be based on the UN-mediated talks. As State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday, “We remain committed to the Geneva process.”
De Mistura called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence with Assad and “have the courage” to push Damascus to enter into a meaningful dialogue with the opposition.
Similarly, Nauert stated, “We expect that Russia will continue to try to bring the [Syrian] regime to the table.”
On Monday, Putin made a lightning tour of three Middle Eastern countries: Syria, Egypt, and Turkey. Syria’s future was a major topic in the discussions he held in each country. However, in the press conferences that followed his meetings, Putin made no mention of the Geneva negotiations.
Rather, Moscow has developed an alternative forum—discussions held in Astana, Kazakhstan. It is also establishing a different group of opposition representatives that could supplant the Saudi-backed Syrian opposition that participates in the Geneva negotiations.
Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA, explained on Wednesday to a conference of the Jamestown Foundation, that, several years ago, he had already concluded that Assad’s remaining in power might be better than the two alternative scenarios: continued civil war or an Islamic State victory.
The problem, in Hayden’s view, was that President Barack Obama was unwilling to do very much, and Hayden did not see the Trump administration’s policy as significantly different.
“Absent an American willingness to change the facts on the ground, the best thing that is going to come out of this is the government survives, and Assad continues to rule,” Hayden recalled saying then.
The New Yorker magazine recently reported that the Trump administration had reluctantly resigned itself to Assad’s remaining in power until the next scheduled elections in Syria, in 2021. However, Nauert dismissed the report as “off the mark.”
Editing by Nadia Riva