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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had invited Iran to participate, but the offer was withdrawn late Monday after the United States objected and Syria's main opposition group said it would not take part unless the offer was retracted.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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs