News / Middle East

Geneva Communique: Road Map for Syria Political Transition

U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi speaks during a news conference at the U.N. headquarter in Geneva, Jan. 24, 2014.
U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi speaks during a news conference at the U.N. headquarter in Geneva, Jan. 24, 2014.
Margaret Besheer
At an international peace conference for Syria in June 2012, participants agreed to what has become known as the Geneva Communiqué.  It laid out a six-point plan intended to stop the violence and move the two sides towards a political settlement.  The United Nations is trying to implement that framework at peace talks going on now in Switzerland where the two parties have finally agreed to meet.

In its language, the Geneva Communiqué calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body that would “exercise full executive powers.”  It says that could include “members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.”

At peace talks that opened Wednesday in Switzerland, which have become known in diplomatic shorthand as Geneva 2, international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi made clear that the first Geneva Communiqué is the basis for these talks.

“What we will try to do is talk about how to end this bloody war.  And for that, I think we have a kind of road map in the Communiqué of 30 June 2012, and we will see how we use that platform to best effect.  We have no illusion that it is going to be easy, but we are going to try very hard,” said Brahimi.

Immediately, however, the talks looked troubled when the head of the Syrian government delegation, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, tried in his opening remarks to steer the focus away from a transitional governing body to a discussion of countering terrorism.  Richard Gowan of New York University said that was a strategic miscalculation.
 
“They were too arrogant.  The Syrian foreign minister was too aggressive.  He looked irresponsible and a little drunk on power, frankly," Gowan explained.  "And I think that does some diplomatic damage to President [Bashar al] Assad.  It increases sympathy for the rebels.”

Randa Slim, a scholar with the Washington-based Middle East Institute, says that opening day meeting in the town of Montreux, which included delegations from 40 countries, was a reality check for the Syrian government.

“It really exposed them to a thinking inside the international community that Geneva 1 is here to stay, and that it is something that everybody now has hitched their bandwagon to,” said Slim.

As for the opposition delegation, Professor Daniel Serwer of The Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies said things have so far gone better for them than expected.  “The big success of the opposition in the last couple of days has been to make the transitional governing body the only game in town.  That really is an amazing success because it puts all the emphasis on the political transition,” he stated.

As NYU’s Gowan noted, the political transition as spelled out in the Geneva Communiqué is straightforward, except for one critical point.  “I think that it provides a sort of framework for thinking how you move out of conflict.  It is simply the question of Assad’s future that will be the sticking point,” he added.

The Syrian president's prospects could present a serious hurdle to a political settlement.  It is not just the two Syrian sides that have widely divergent views on the subject.  The United States and Russia, which are driving this peace process, do as well.  Moscow has backed the Assad regime, while Washington supports the moderate opposition.

Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, noted that the language of the Geneva Communiqué does not say President Assad must be excluded from any future transition.
 
“If the ‘mutual consent’ is between the current regime and just part of the opposition, that would allow President Assad to stay in some scenarios.  And that might be acceptable to the Russians; it might not be acceptable to the United States,” said Tabler.

Analysts said that while the concept of ‘mutual consent’ might mean Mr. Assad gets to stay in the short-term, he is unlikely to remain a powerful player or stay indefinitely.

They also doubt that any significant traction will be made quickly on the political front and only small confidence-building measures such as prisoner exchanges, localized cease-fires or improved humanitarian access, will be achieved at Geneva 2.

Whatever deals mediator Brahimi is able to make, Professor Serwer said, ultimately they will need the blessing not just of the U.S. and Russia, but of regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have been fighting a proxy war in Syria.

“There has to be a kind of regional pact to go with the internal pact whenever the time comes, but we are nowhere near that time,” said Serwer.

As the negotiation process gets under way in Geneva within the framework of the Communiqué, only time will tell whether it is the road map mediator Brahimi hopes it will be for reaching the destination of political settlement.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid