News / Middle East

Key Component of Syria Talks Elusive

Al Pessin
As fighting in Syria continues, the number of civilians killed, injured and displaced is rising daily.

Tasked with implementing the communique of an international conference held a year and a half ago, the Geneva Conference of 2012 — which envisions an end to the violence, a new constitution and free elections organized by a so-called “transitional governing body” — is faced with one distinct problem: no one knows exactly what that term means.
 
A key components of the talks, the notion of a transitional governing entity is vague, and no one expects the parties to agree on it for the foreseeable future.

“At the moment I really don’t think that anyone has a vision really of what this transitional government would look like in practical terms," says Middle East expert Hannah Poppy of the London-based Risk Advisory Group, speaking via Skype. "It’s very much an aspirational idea or concept that is yet to take any kind of practical formation.”

While any transitional body would be expected to bring government and opposition figures together, negotiators from both sides have been extremely hostile to each other in public comments, and even in meeting rooms, where they have mostly discussed humanitarian issues via U.N. and Arab League mediators, they've also failed to find agreement.

Assad

Any talk of a political transition would involve discussing the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom the opposition insists must go and the government insists must stay.

Professor Reinoud Leenders of King’s College says opposition leaders have no flexibility on the issue because of the diverse and fractious coalition they represent.

“They are not in a position to make any compromises on this," he said. "When they would be seen as making compromises on that key issue, I think they will be losing any influence on the ground.”

But, he adds, government officials are also disinclined to compromise, even with foreign supporters Russia and Iran urging them to.

"For them, basically this is a struggle for regime survival, and the regime at its essence is basically a small group of officials and leaders,” said Leenders.

The experts say top Syrian officials, like those at the Geneva talks, are not likely to negotiate themselves out of their jobs, and possibly into exile or jail.

“If they continue to focus on the personality of Bashar al-Assad, the talks are really not going to go anywhere,” Poppy added.

But no one has any alternative either, leaving the process stuck on its key, but ambiguous goal, which the parties so far can’t even discuss.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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