Syria Peace Talks: Rocky Start
by Stephen Lendman
On January 22, talks began. Forty countries participated for two days. Syria bashing was almost nonstop. Invectives substituted for truth and full disclosure. Russia and China were two exceptions.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem responded. He did so forthrightly, eloquently and persuasively. He was way-outnumbered doing it.
On Friday, talks were scheduled to begin between Syrian and opposition delegations. They're postponed at least until Saturday. Both sides won't meet face-to-face. More on this below.
Lakhdar Brahimi is UN/Arab League Special Envoy to Syria. He's no honest broker. He's Washington's front man. He acting as intermediary for both sides. They'll address each other through him.
Syria prefers face-to-face talks. That's how negotiations should be. Opposition leader Ahmed al-Jarba refused. He mocks legitimacy. He's a US stooge. He does what his handlers order.
According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA):
Foreign Minister al-Moallem "told Brahimi that Syria's official delegation is serious, ready to work seriously, but this doesn't seem (to be) the other delegation('s)" intention.
Assad political/media advisor Bouthaina Shaaban is part of his negotiating delegation. On Friday, she said:
"We came to Geneva for the sake of our country, people and to stop terrorism, bloodshed through a political track that would be determined by the Syrians themselves, and we will not retreat."
Syria is for Syrians, she stressed. "(T)he coalition called opposition has no issue of a homeland or people."
Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said Syria came to Geneva to defend the country and its people.
"We are insisting on the success of the political track, and we have no intentions to complicate it."
"We have clear directives from President Bashar al-Assad to work for the success of this track."
"We came to Geneva with an open mind and a free, sovereign and independent national will and no one, neither major countries and institutions, nor regional states, can dictate its language and conditions on us at all."
"There is no meaning for any political process or step as long as guns and swords are still put on the necks of the citizens."
Syrian delegates came to Geneva for talks with "opposition forces, but it is obvious that (they're) not represented entirely..."
Instead "there is a partial, very narrow and simple representation."
At the same time, anti-Syrian media propaganda continues. Al-Zoubi called it "black political comedy."
Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad said Washington, Saudi Arabia and Turkey want talks sabotaged.
"It is noticeable that the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which have failed even to bring a tiny part of the so-called 'opposition,' want to blow up this conference..."
It's a lost cause because of "the children they sent for negotiations.”
"Syria’s official delegation will remain in Geneva and will exert every possible effort, whether through the UN or through the Russian friends, to start work as soon as possible because we have a principled and strong message from President Bashar al-Assad to make this conference a success and to work for halting bloodshed and foreign intervention."
Al-Moallem said Syrians alone will decide their future. They'll do so without foreign interference.
Government delegates are ready to begin talks. No one showed up on Friday to join them. Why isn't clear. Or when talks will begin. Or what will be accomplished when and if they do.
On January 24, Reuters headlined "Syria peace talks on verge of collapse before they begin."
So-called opposition delegates refused to meet with their Syrian counterparts. They didn't show up on day one. Orders come from Washington.
They stipulated unacceptable terms. They won't talk without "a protocol calling for a transitional administration."
Syrian delegates categorically refused. Talks were agreed on without preconditions. None will be added now.
Al-Moallem said delegates will return home unless serious talks begin within a day. Syrian television quoted him saying:
"If no serious work sessions are held by (Saturday), the official Syrian delegation will leave Geneva due to the other side's lack of seriousness or preparedness."
At the same time, it said talks between government delegates and Brahimi were "held in a constructive spirit."
Opposition delegate Haitham al-Maleh told Reuters:
"We have explicitly demanded a written commitment from the regime delegation to accept Geneva I. Otherwise there will be no direct negotiations."
Geneva I calls for transitional governance. It says nothing about excluding Assad or other ruling Ba'ath party members. Syrians alone must decide who'll lead them.
Imposing a precondition contravenes agreed on negotiating terms. Syria rejects doing so.
It wants talks focused on ending terrorism. It wants fighting halted. Syrians want peace and stability. They alone will decide their future. No outside interference will be tolerated.
UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said "(t)here are no Syria-Syrian talks at the moment."
"I cannot tell you anything about what will happen in the next few days."
Reuters said "(e)ven before the announcement that the direct talks were cancelled, the outlook was dim."
If talks begin, they'll do so in separate rooms. Brahimi will act as intermediary. Negotiating this way complicates shaky talks further.
Syria expressed willingness to discuss ceasefire terms, prisoner exchanges, and opening humanitarian corridors.
Information Minister al-Zoubi said Assad won't step down. Elections are scheduled for later this year.
"(B)efore organizing them, we will have to defeat terrorism in the country and stop the killing of civilians," he said.
He named four priorities. They include eliminating terrorists, helping ordinary Syrians, ending sanctions, and holding open, free and fair democratic elections.
Al Arabiya television said Syria agreed to free 5,500 prisoners. An unnamed source was cited. No further details are known so far.
On Friday, Voice of Russia said opposition delegation head Jarba remains in Switzerland. He's not planning to leave. At least not now. An unnamed source representing him said:
"Mr. Jarba is the head of our delegation. He has not gone anywhere. He will probably meet with the UN secretary-general's envoy Lahdar Brahimi."
"The negotiations will probably be conducted by the team of negotiators authorized by Mr. Jarba. He will be in close coordination with his team."
It's unclear where things stand. Reuters said Jarba won't talk without Syrian delegates agreeing to transitional governance without Assad.
It remains to be seen what follows. It bears repeating. Jarba and other Syrian National Coalition (SNC) officials are US stooges.
If Washington wants talks, they'll begin. Otherwise we're back to square one. Either way hardly matters.
Conflict rages. Extremist opposition elements aren't in Geneva. They want war, not peace.
Ending conflict depends on defeating them. Many months of fighting remain. Perhaps years.
Depleted jihadist ranks are replenished with new recruits. At the same time, Assad negotiates from a position of strength.
His military forces are superior. Opposition ones are no match in direct confrontations.
That won't change without Western intervention. It's possible, perhaps likely, if Geneva talks fail.
Things could come to a head later this year. Stalemate fighting won't continue forever.
Hillary Clinton once called Assad "dead man walking." He's much stronger now than when she said it.
He's not going away. He's strengthened further by opposition elements battling each other.
They're fragmented. They have no central authority. They have nothing matching Syrian firepower.
Its military and most civilians match their determination to win. They want no part of Wahhabi-style governance.
They want Syria remaining secular. They want foreign fighters defeated.
They want to determine Syria's future on their own. They want no outside interference.
Above all, they want bloodshed ended. They want opposition atrocities stopped.
Then want peace, stability and security restored. They want normality returned.
They want what Assad's forces are fighting for. They want what won't be achieved soon. Conflicts at times take on a life of their own.
Three years of fighting could become four or five. Negotiated settlements require representatives from all parties involved.
Syria's main opposition elements won't talk. Conflict without end could continue. Afghanistan is America's longest war.
It's raged since October 2001. It shows no signs of ending. It could continue for another decade. The same is true in Iraq and Libya.
Both countries are cauldrons of violence. US puppet regimes can't stop it. Dozens die daily. Nothing in prospect suggests resolving things.
Syria could end up the same way. Perhaps US strategy plans it that way. Terrorists "R" Us reflects longstanding policy.
Wherever America goes, mass slaughter and destruction follow. Nothing ahead suggests change. War on humanity continues. Maybe the worst is yet to come.
Note: Late Friday, Brahimi brokered a deadlock. Both sides agreed to "meet in the same room," he said.
Talks begin Saturday. What's accomplished remains to be seen.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.