Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Hopeless Negotiations, Yet Attendance is a Must | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Despite losses endured after the Russian air force attacks, with the latest being at the cost of the southern Syrian town of Al-Shaykh Maskin, the Syrian Opposition’s delegation seems to be ever more firm. Seventeen Syrian Opposition members led by Riyad Hijab all arrived at Geneva.

Hijab is a renowned and respected figure to all Syrian forces and Opposition factions, and who was previously assigned as Syria’s Prime Minister by President Bashar al-Assad, during the chaotic phase of June 2012. However, Hijab chose to break away from the regime three months after his appointment, when the Opposing Free Syrian Army offered help with his escape to Jordan.

Over the past three years, Hijab has opted to participate in the political works of the Opposition’s forces, yet without getting involved with its disputes, which served the validity of his selection as the head of the delegation representing both the Riyadh-based Higher Negotiation Committee (HNC) and the Syrian Opposition factions.

Attending the negotiations, with the whole assigned delegation present, the Syrian Opposition had taken the first step of the long journey ahead in Geneva peace talks. The UN had already estimated the talks process based on the instated negotiating program and principal subjects it broaches, to take up a six months’ indefinite timeline.

Initial readings predicted that the Syrian Opposition will not succeed on reaching to an agreement, yet ironically, here they are in agreement. They also predicted that the Opposition will disagree on leadership, yet here they are having elected Hijab, they have surpassed all primary conditions, despite them being impossible. The Syrian Opposition proved that the delegation’s policy stands to deny the Syrian regime along with its Iranian and Russian allies a chance to be left alone before the international community represented by the UN mission and envoy de Mistura.

Opposition members recognize that six months are enough to trial intentions and political plots; at the end they can simply elect to repudiate and continue with sieging the regime.

The mission on implementing cease fire, one of the main urgent subjects to be discussed, is it feasible?

The Syrian opposition will easily accept it, given that they are allowed to manage the areas under their control, and not being held responsible for any of the activities of zones run by terrorist organizations like ISIS and al-Nusra Front.

However, the paralleling question remains. Can negotiators impose the same conditions on Assad’s regime, Iranians, and the Russians on stopping all military operations?

The issue here falls under the responsibility of the United Nations and sponsor countries.

What has been recently witnessed by the Russian air force on pounding refugee camps north of Lattakia, and seeing the flames burn through the tents, setting refugees running on foot towards the borders again, has revealed the true nature of the challenge.

Protests should be held against Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah’s operations targeting Syrians and must always remain a priority to the peace talks in Geneva, to prevent Russians and Iranians taking advantage of the negotiations, in order to carry on with their sectarianism, ethnic cleansing, and progression on land.

The talks will first revolve on truce, restricting areas of conflict, prisoner exchanges, and humanitarian aid delivery, thus time is bound to pass before the subject on the future of presidency in Syria is broached. Yet it’s worth mentioning that the question of presidency is what caused war and led the Geneva peace talks in the first place.

Truth be said, there isn’t anyone optimistic around the outcome of the peace talks on putting an end to the conflict, simply because it is a mere political gathering with underlying goals.

The US administration wishes to spend 2016 in diplomatic work, so it is not perceived negligent towards solving the conflict suit currently threatening world peace. Europeans are just concerned with limiting the influx of refugees heading towards their borders. On the other hand Russians believe that they are capable of imposing a political solution that compels the Syrian Opposition to raise the white flag before Assad’s rule, in exchange for sideline positions in what stands to mimic a government.

On the question of why is the Opposition even attending the talks, knowing all the aforementioned on mediators’ true and humble intentions? At the outset, the Opposition has nothing to lose by attending. Secondly, so that its absence does not restore Assad’s international legitimacy, instead it choses to challenge the regime and participates in the talks on all suits present.

The preceding peace talks took place on the same current day of the negotiations, and back then Assad’s regime promised to destroy the Opposition within a year. Nevertheless, despite brining in the help of Iranians first and Russians second, today its efforts have rendered futile.

Both the UN and peace talks cannot force on the majority of Syrians what they refuse, and the war consuming both Iranian and Russian capabilities will prevail at a time that despite how hard the latter tries to support it, the regime will remain incompetent in restoring itself, because it has become crippled with the loss of most of its military and security forces.