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Analysts: Geneva II Will Not Result in Solution for Syria

Tepid Outlook on Syria Talks in Montreauxi
January 23, 2014 7:16 PM
Second international conference on Syria not likely to result in a solution for the embattled country, as representatives for the government of President Bashar al-Assad and opposition clash during opening meeting in Montreux, Switzerland. Zlatica Hoke has more.
VIDEO: Second international conference on Syria not likely to result in a solution for the embattled country, as representatives for the government of President Bashar al-Assad and opposition clash during opening meetings in Montreux, Switzerland.
Zlatica Hoke
The second international conference on Syria is not likely to result in a solution for the embattled country, as representatives for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition clashed during an opening meeting in Montreux, Switzerland. 

Analysts say the most that can be expected from the conference known as Geneva 2 is a framework for negotiations between the sides. 

Syrians who have fled their homes to escape mayhem in their country have a very clear message for negotiators in Switzerland. 

"What we want from the Syrian regime and the opposition forces is to leave their arrogance behind and come to an agreement to bring an end of the war. We want a final decision. Whether it's [U.N. and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria] Lakhdar Brahimi who intermediates or someone else, we don't really care," said Fatma Hassan, a Syrian refugee in Turkey.

A new round of peace talks on Syria got off to a shaky start Wednesday in the Swiss town of Montreux as the government and the opposition both claimed to represent the Syrian people, while fighting continued across the country. 

Former U.S. ambassador to Syria Theodore Kattouff said one problem is that the world powers disagree on what is the best solution for Syria.  Russia and China support the Assad government, while many others want him to go.  But no great power or the United Nations is willing to deploy forces on the ground in Syria.

"That means that negotiations are going to be largely determined by the balance of forces within Syria - between the various opposition factions and the regime.  And right now what we seem to have is something approaching a stalemate.  Neither side is able to defeat the other," explained Kattouf. "Neither side is able to force its will upon the other, and given this situation, this could go on and the suffering the refugee situation and the torture and the killing for a tremendous amount of time."

But it would be wrong to dismiss the importance of peace talks, said retired U.S. Army Colonel Jeff McCausland.  He noted that despite their disagreements, the United States and Russia forged an agreement on the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, and the current meeting eventually could lead to negotiations between the rival sides in Syria.  But he said he does not see more than a broad agreement on Syria coming out of the current round of talks.

"At best, it would seem to me [that] Geneva 2 -- and the United States and the Russian Federation might well agree upon this --  could result in some confidence building measures between the two sides, some agreement on opening routes to revive greater humanitarian assistance to those civilians that are trapped in the  conflict," he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the sides to negotiate for the sake of the Syrian people.

"The Syrian people are looking desperately for relief from the nightmare in which they are trapped," he said.

International leaders also are concerned about reports that foreign terrorist groups are infiltrating Syria, and both sides are being blamed for making it possible.  In addition, there are growing fears that the conflict might spread in the region.  Despite growing urgency to end the almost three-year war in Syria, politicians and diplomats can offer little hope for a quick solution there.

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