05.02.2016 Author: Alexander Orlov

Is There Any Hope for Geneva Talks?

geneva-un-hqThe talks on the Syrian settlement in Geneva have taken a turn that could have been easily predicted. After the start of negotiations under the authority of the UN, launched on February 4 under an extensive amount of pressure from Washington, they were suddenly disrupted. The official statement reads that the talks have been delayed for 3 weeks, but it makes little to no difference. The delegation representing the Syrian opposition announced that Russia’s air strikes in Syria are undermining efforts by the international community aimed at finding a solution to the Syrian conflict. This was announced by the head of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) Salim al-Muslat, the committee which was formed in the Saudi capital. The talks that the United Nations special envoy for the Syria crisis Staffan de Mistura has been desperately trying to launch since February 1, gained no momentum whatsoever. Not a single step towards a compromise has been made so far.

Out of the two meetings that were scheduled within the framework of the negotiations, only a single one actually took place, and it was the meeting with the Syrian government representatives. The delegation of the HNC failed to arrive at the Palais des Nations. In turn, the current Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari said that the announcement made by Staffan de Mistura at the start of negotiations was nothing but his “personal assessment”, while all discussions are still in the preparatory stage. Bashar Jaafari told reporters that, just like two years ago, at the Geneva-2 negotiations which also failed, Damascus insists on the fundamental importance of the question regarding the fight against terrorism. He said that the opposition has not submitted the lists of its delegates yet.

In turn, the High Negotiations Committee representatives announced that the provisions of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 should be fulfilled before negotiations even start. First of all, the opposition demands to address three main issues – to provide access to besieged cities, to stop attacks on civilians and to release women and children from prisons. Moreover, Salim al-Muslat accused Russia of making attempts to disrupt the negotiations by carrying on its air assault operations in Syria. According to the head of the HNC, ever since February 1 there’s been massive killings in Syria “but nobody does anything about it.” He said that since last Monday Russian warplanes carried out more that 270 sorties in Syria that allegedly resulted in casualties among the civilian population. However, Moscow still has not confirmed these allegations.

While responding to those remarks, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov noted that the UN resolution doesn’t state that some demands should be fulfilled before the start of negotiations, therefore the HNC position is nothing more than an attempt to block the talks from starting.

Meanwhile, The United Nations special envoy for the Syria crisis, Staffan de Mistura, announced in an interview with the Swiss TV channel RTS that “there will be no more hope for Syria” should those negotiations fail. Lately Western officials have been making a growing number of illogical statements on Syria. Washington’s desperate desire to put a halt to Russia’s operation in Syria is more obvious today than it has ever been. According to the State Department spokesman John Kirby, the peace talks regarding Syria have been put on hold due to Russia’s air strikes in Syria. Moreover, he went as far as announcing that those strike are allegedly hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians. It has been clear all along that the main purpose of negotiations for Washington is to announce a ceasefire, giving terrorists the time and opportunity to regroup their forces, resupply their weapons through Saudi and Qatari money and deliveries made by Turkey, and then resume the clashes with renewed vigor.

It is no coincidence that on February 4 Russian Defense Ministry Spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov announced that there’s been intense military preparations spotted along the Turkish-Syrian border, which means that Turkey is planning a full-scale military invasion of the Syrian Arab Republic. He also reminded that the Russian Defense Ministry earlier provided the international community with video evidence showing Turkish artillery units shelling Syrian urban areas in the north of Latakia. Igor Konashenkov announced that Russia is surprised that the Pentagon, NATO and numerous so-called human rights organizations have made no effort to condemn those actions. The Russian general has also underlined the fact that the Defense Ministry has increased all kinds of intelligence activities in the Middle East to ensure that Ankara won’t be able to keep any of its actions against Syria a secret.

At the same time the United States ignored the fact that opposition forces, who are being leveled to the ground by Russia’s aircraft, are located near the city of Aleppo. Washington is clearly not interested in telling the truth, since it’s devoted to produce all kinds stories about civilians being the target, but not ISIL. The truth is that the Syrian army with the support of the people’s militia detachments broke a four-year blockade of villages of Nubol and Zahraa in northern Aleppo province. Throughout all this time the humanitarian aid and munitions were dropped to the defenders of these bastions by Syrian air logistics. Moreover, the fact that Syria’s army have manged to cut off their main supply route leading from Turkey to the northern outskirts of the city of Aleppo, made the so-called opposition clearly hysterical.

According to Bashar Jaafari, after this brilliant offensive, representatives of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia who are supporting the so-called opposition forces, ordered the HNC delegation to leave Geneva. After all, these “leaders” arrived in Geneva on a special plane provided by the royal Al-Saud family, while those who came to represent the legitimate government of Syria had to use the assistance of Staffan de Mistura to get to Geneva with huge difficulties and numerous transfers, spending more than 24 hours on their trip.

One can only laugh at American officials that demand Russia to “concentrate fire” on ISIL, and not “opposition forces and innocent citizens”, while there has been no proof whatsoever that there’s been any civilian casualties at all. Once again American officials underlined that the Syrian conflict can not be solved by military means.However, to this date Washington has been hiding the civilian death toll caused by its so-called bombing of ISIL.

The utter and complete failure of the negotiations has clearly demonstrated that the United States has no intentions to change its policies in the region. The Geneva talks are perceived in the White House as a tool to interfere with Russia’s operations in Syria. As for the so-called opposition, in accordance with Washington’s and Riyadh’s demands it is doing its best to derail the talks by putting forward unacceptable demands, like the discussion of “Syria after Assad.”

After all, everyone understands that all these claims about Russia’s evildoing in Syria are only aimed at disrupting the negotiation process in Geneva, or at least provide it with an anti-Russian flare, while Washington carries on its policy of supporting terrorists. Moreover, the White House is pushing Paris to do so as well. Thus, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated that the failed negotiations in Geneva have been derailed by the Syrian government and its allies, namely Russia, Iran and Hezbollah since they “were not approaching them with full responsibility.”

In this situation it’s about time to move from empty diplomatic games within the confines of “peace talks” and toward new military operations in Syria to purge its soil of Islamists. The Syrian army and people’s militia achieved a lot on the field of battle over the last 3 weeks. It’s clear that by carrying on the offensive one can achieve more than by sitting in Geneva engaged in empty talks.

Alexander Orlov, political scientist and expert Orientalistexclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.