Kerry's recent comments about negotiating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sparked controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. But what did he actually say?
Having already coaxed the Syrian regime into attending peace talks in Moscow at the end of January, the Kremlin finds itself unable to convince any significant opposition leader to participate.
By agreeing to the Moscow talks, the Syrian regime is portraying itself as more flexible than the opposition, at a time when the international community has lost patience with the intransigence on both sides.
The chances of success for the much-discussed Russian initiative to end the war in Syria seem slim at best—because Moscow has called a peace meeting with only one of the warring parties in attendance.
In recent months, there has been a flurry of diplomatic movement in the Syrian conflict, as Russia and Iran, the two main allies of Bashar al-Assad, are trying to seize the initiative and pave the way for a new political deal.
It is hard to imagine a solution to the Syrian crisis that does not involve Russia. However, despite the long-standing ties between the two countries, even Russia's most-qualified Syria expert may have little insight into the Syrian regime's inner workings.
If the conflict in Ukraine develops into a lasting standoff between the U.S.-EU camp and Russia, it may shift the dynamics in Syria in more direct ways as well.
In the past three years, Russian influence in Syria has swelled dramatically and Moscow has acquired a new hand to play in regional politics.
Much hinges on how Russia and Iran are approached by the Friends of Syria group, which will have to rethink their approach to opposition representation at negotiations and, more importantly, how a transitional process in Syria will unfold in practice.
The United States and Russia should present Syrians of all persuasions with a practical template against which to measure both the regime’s and the opposition’s willingness to find a genuine political solution.
While he is routinely billed as an “opposition leader” in Syrian, Iranian, and Russian media, Qadri Jamil has always hovered on the outskirts of regime politics.
A preliminary date has been set for the Geneva II negotiations and the Syrian opposition is expected to sit down with representatives from Bashar al-Assad’s regime to discuss the prospect of a unity government. But note the word ”preliminary.”