News / Middle East

Expectations Low for Syria Meeting

Expectations Low for Syria Meetingi
January 21, 2014 4:59 AM
After a flurry of frenzied diplomacy Monday that resulted in the United Nations withdrawing its offer for Iran to participate, the long-awaited second international peace conference on Syria is scheduled to convene in the Swiss resort town of Montreux on Wednesday and resume in Geneva later in the week. VOA's Al Pessin reports.
Expectations Low for Syria Meeting
Al Pessin
After a flurry of diplomacy Monday that resulted in the United Nations withdrawing its offer for Iran to participate, the long-awaited second international peace conference on Syria is scheduled to convene in the Swiss resort town of Montreux on Wednesday and resume in Geneva later in the week.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had invited Iran to participate, but the offer was withdrawn late Monday after the United States objected and Syria's main opposition group said it would not take part unless the offer was retracted. 

Iran declined the invitation at the same time, saying it could not accept the communique from the previous Geneva Conference on Syria, held in June 2012, which calls for a political "transition." Iran is one of the main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Montreaux, Switzerland - site of conferenceMontreaux, Switzerland - site of conference
Montreaux, Switzerland - site of conference
Montreaux, Switzerland - site of conference
But even before Monday's drama, expectations for the talks were low as the Syrian government and opposition factions - and their international backers - continue to have sharply different views of Syria's future.
With the West and Arab states supporting the opposition and Russia and Iran supporting the government, the two sides have fought to a stalemate, and have hardened their demands, according to Chris Doyle of the Center for Arab-British Understanding.
“Neither the regime nor the various, myriad opposition forces are yet in a position where they are yet ready to draw down from their maximalist positions,” he said.
That was evident in the days leading up to the conference, with Western officials saying Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must resign and  Assad saying he has no intention of doing so.
The main opposition coalition only agreed to attend the conference at the last minute, and under intense Western pressure. Even so, the coalition is deeply divided and threatened to walk out if the discussion is diverted to just about anything other than Assad's removal.
The fighting has raged in Syria for nearly three years, leaving an estimated 100,000 dead and 8.5 million exiled or displaced - nearly half the country’s population. The United Nations has said more than nine million Syrians are in urgent need of aid, and many of them cannot be reached because of the fighting.
There are proposals for ceasefires, prisoner exchanges and humanitarian corridors.
David Butter of London’s Chatham House said this conference is not likely to make progress even on those issues, and procedural agreements might be the best that can be hoped for.
“If there is a framework that ultimately could bring the parties in, then that is better than nothing," he said. "I think that is just about as much as you can say for this process at the moment.”
Butter said that many of the opposition fighters have refused to send representatives to this conference, with the most militant threatening to retaliate against any group that attends.
“Any sort of settlement of the Syrian conflict will necessarily have to involve people who actually are on the ground and doing the fighting," he said. "None of the main groups on the ground are committed to any sort of negotiating process at the moment.” 
Regional powers like Iran, as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, further complicate the crisis, each with their own interests to protect. Chris Doyle said it is just not possible to satisfy all the myriad parties to the Syrian conflict.
“These actors have also got to come to terms with the fact that they are not going to realize all of their goals and they need to cool down the Cold War that has entrapped Syria, that has actually fueled the fighting,” he said.
The United Nations, which is hosting this conference, has long described the plight of the Syrian people as desperate, but experts say the conference is mainly about big power diplomacy and perhaps starting a process among the Syrian parties, with little expected in the way of concrete results to move toward ending the war or helping its victims.

VOA United Nations correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.