News / Middle East

Negotiators Hold Key to Syria's Future

Syrian opposition chief negotiator Hadi al-Bahra (2nd R) and General Secretary of the Syrian National Council Badr Jamous (4ht R) arrive with the opposition delegation to attend a meeting at the
Syrian opposition chief negotiator Hadi al-Bahra (2nd R) and General Secretary of the Syrian National Council Badr Jamous (4ht R) arrive with the opposition delegation to attend a meeting at the "Geneva II" peace talks dedicated to the ongoing conflict in in Syria, in Geneva, Jan. 25, 2014.
Al Pessin
As the delegations from the Syrian government and opposition begin tentative talks in Geneva, attention is focusing on just who is doing the talking, and what their positions are. 
 
The fact that the negotiators sat in the same room with a U.N. mediator Saturday was a major development after nearly three years of war, 100,000 dead and millions of Syrians displaced.
 
But with all the differences over issues, and even over what to talk about, some experts say the makeup of the delegations could be a key factor. 
 
On the opposition side, the 15-member delegation was put together only a week ago, and is a compromise collection of representatives from some of the 76 groups that are not boycotting this process. Forty-four other groups refused to participate.
 
Alexandre Vautravers of the Geneva Center for Security Policy said this first round of talks is partly an exploration of who should represent the opposition in the future.
 
“There's a lot of observation with regard to these persons, these groups. How representative are they? Are they going to be able to reach some kind of consensus among themselves? I think the key is going to be the outside looking in, to try and find out who are the respectable," said Vautravers. "Legitimate parties that the international community wants to be supportive of.” 
 
The opposition delegation chief is the president of the 120-member coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba. His ability to deviate from agreed-upon positions is limited because of the diversity of his coalition.
 
His chief negotiator is Hadi Barha, a U.S.-educated engineer with little political experience and no affiliation with any of the coalition groups. Other members include a former Syrian diplomat, a young geologist who lives in Britain, and several human-rights campaigners, including a woman.
 
Their inexperience and lack of time to get organized and finalize their positions contributed to the delay in getting the direct talks started.
 
The government delegation should be more cohesive and homogeneous, but there have been some indications of less than total agreement. The delegation chief, Foreign Minister Walid Moualem, gave a tough speech at the international conference that preceded these talks, but was slightly more conciliatory later. 
 
A senior member of his delegation, Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jafari, told the BBC it is “too early” to talk about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad resigning - seemingly a departure from the official line that resignation is not even up for discussion.
 
Vautravers said the United States, Russia and U.N. diplomats have noticed.  “The international community is really hearing out different people from the regime, from the foreign ministry, to try and find out [whether] perhaps there are some people who are closer to the possibility of opening up negotiations on the regime side,” Vautravers stated. 
 
And that could be important because, as Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies points out, this round of talks is only the beginning.
 
“Assuming that the negotiations and discussions don't break down completely, there'll be more rounds. There'll be Geneva 3, Geneva 4, Geneva 5 and so on, and so on, and so on. Talking is good, right? And if you can get talks going, if you can get some ongoing kinds of discussions creating a framework for further discussions, that would be good as well,” said White. 
 
That is what the United States and Russia - the key supporters of the two sides -- want. Experts say neither the government nor the opposition would last long on the battlefields of Syria, or in the international political arena, without foreign support. 
 
So while the members of the delegations are important, they are susceptible to outside pressure. And that may help explain how the situation changed so dramatically from Friday, when it seemed no direct talks would take place, to Saturday, when officials were talking about a full week of meetings. 

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs