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 "Geneva II" peace talks dedicated to the ongoing conflict in in Syria, in Geneva, Jan. 25, 2014.
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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
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