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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had invited Iran to participate, but the offer was withdrawn late Monday after the United States objected and Syria's main opposition group said it would not take part unless the offer was retracted.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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs