News / Middle East

Expectations Low for Syria Meeting

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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had invited Iran to participate, but the offer was withdrawn late Monday after the United States objected and Syria's main opposition group said it would not take part unless the offer was retracted.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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid