Geneva II: Watch Out for Back-Channel Talks

Source: Getty
Op-Ed Al Jazeera
Summary
The significance of the Geneva II conference is not going to lie in its formal outcomes as much as in its behind-the-scenes talks.
Related Topics
Related Media and Tools
 

The much-anticipated Geneva II conference has proven to be somewhat of an anti-climax after it opened on January 22. But the significance of the conference is not going to lie in its formal outcomes as much as in its behind-the-scenes talks.

The conference has been a political litmus test. It has not only emphasised the wide political gap between rival stakeholders in the Syrian conflict, but also that between their expectations from Geneva II itself.

For the Syrian regime, Geneva II has been an opportunity to try to validate the "counter-terrorism" narrative it has been using to frame the conflict in Syria. The regime's participation is driven by its expectation of succeeding in selling this narrative to the international community, and consequently, keeping President Bashar al-Assad in power.

But as demonstrated through the one-dimensional tone of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem's opening speech, this increasingly unconvincing narrative is the regime's only card in its justification of its brutal actions in Syria and its argument for the continuation of Assad's leadership. The Syrian National Coalition, on the other hand, sees in Geneva II the start of a process of political transition involving the departure of Assad.

That each side has come to Geneva II with different goals is not surprising, but it also emphasises the difficulty of conducting negotiations in the absence of common ground for having negotiations in the first place. Hopes for the talks' resulting in a political transition deal are low, especially that the Assad regime has been vocal about its unwillingness to compromise.

Further complicating matters are the growing internal divisions within the opposition, particularly after the departure of the Syrian National Council from the Coalition. This makes any agreement reached through Geneva II lacking in broad representation and also difficult to implement.

Implementation is further hindered by the presence of myriad rebel groups - especially jihadist armed ones - who have been both a product and producers of the conflict, and whose very existence is dependent on the perpetuation of the conflict. Finding a political solution to the conflict is not in the interest of these groups. Even increased humanitarian aid and localised truces and ceasefires - the best formal outcomes one can hope for as a result of Geneva II - are likely to be undermined by those groups.

But outside of its formal proceedings, the conference has been the first platform to bring together the regime, the opposition, and their respective international backers in the same space, and thus the opportunity for conducting informal multilateral conversations behind closed doors. Those conversations are hinting at the likelihood of future convergence between the United States and Russia with regard to  Bashar al-Assad himself, despite their current divergent public statements about the issue.

Through Geneva II, the United States has acknowledged Russia's position of power as being parallel to its own, as opposed to secondary to it. This acknowledgment, coupled with both sides agreement that the solution to the conflict is a political one, makes the matter of Assad's own role secondary. It would not be unthinkable, post-Geneva II, to see Russia eventually accepting a political deal involving a change of leadership in Syria. Those elements of the Syrian regime who are more concerned about continuation of their own positions than about the presence of Assad would embrace such a deal if it came with certain guarantees.

Even though Geneva II itself is not going to be the place where a transition deal is sealed, participation in the conference carries an implicit recognition of the likelihood of a deal in the future. Geneva II is not going to have immediate concrete results, but the back-channel talks it is harboring are worth watching out for.

This article was originally published by Al Jazeera.

End of document

Comments

 
Source http://carnegie-mec.org/2014/01/27/geneva-ii-watch-out-for-back-channel-talks/gzel

Syria in Crisis

More from The Global Think Tank

In Fact

 

45%

of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.

30%

of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.

140

charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.

2.5–5

thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.

92%

of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.

$2.34

trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.

37%

of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.

72%

of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.

90%

of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.

13%

of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.

17

U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.

40%

of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.

120

million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.

60–70%

of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.

58%

of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.

67%

of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.

50%

of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.

18%

of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.

81%

of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.

32

million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3

Syrians

now needs urgent assistance.

370

political parties

contested India’s last national elections.

70%

of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.

70%

of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.

20%

of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.

58%

of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.

$536

billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.

$100

billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.

4700%

increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.

$11

billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.

2%

of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.

78

journalists

were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address in the field below to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
 
 
Carnegie Middle East Center
 
Emir Bechir Street, Lazarieh Tower Bldg. No. 2026 1210, 5th flr. Downtown Beirut, P.O.Box 11-1061 Riad El Solh, Lebanon
Phone: +961 1 99 12 91 Fax: +961 1 99 15 91
Please note...

You are leaving the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy's website and entering another Carnegie global site.

请注意...

你将离开清华—卡内基中心网站,进入卡内基其他全球中心的网站。