Inside Syria

Syria: Who holds the key to Geneva II?

As world powers fail to set a date for the Geneva peace conference, we ask who could end the Syrian civil war.

Last updated: 10 Nov 2013 12:22
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It has been another week of setbacks when it comes to finding peace in Syria. World powers have again failed to set a date for an international peace conference aimed at ending the war.

After meeting senior diplomats in Geneva, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said that organising the talks has been harder than expected. They were due to start later this month.

There isn’t one key anymore. We are talking about a very complex crisis that requires a very complex solution. But to open the door towards pathway of a solution we need many keys to that lock. The keys on the international level ... seem to be ready to open this door .... I think right now Iran and Saudi Arabia, more than any other country, are playing a regional cold war. And if this doesn’t stop, there will be no solution. There are no keys. We certainly need both of them to head towards peace talks … Both have to realise that neither of them can win.

Rim Turkmani, a member of the political office of Building the Syrian State

Brahimi has been meeting all sides, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There appear to be several obstacles, such as the lack of consensus among world powers that back opposing sides in the fighting.

Last week, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, accused Iran of military intervention in Syria.

"Syria is a land occupied by Iranian forces … The best test for Iran to prove its goodwill would be its withdrawal from Syria along with its Lebanese Hezbollah ally."

The Iranian government says it will take part in any peace talks on Syria without any preconditions.

"As we have already announced, we will accept no preconditions for participation in Geneva II, but our basic policy is supporting any political move in that respect," said the spokesperson for Iranian Foreign Minister Marzeih Afkham.

Mohammad Marandi, an associate professor of North American Studies at the University of Tehran, believes that the only way to reach a solution "is for all sides to put aside preconditions saying who can and who cannot be at the table. The Iranians have not set any preconditions without a doubt." 

Russia has also reiterated its call for Iran to be present at any Syrian peace talks.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "All those with influence on the situation must certainly be invited to the conference. This includes all Syria's neighbours as well as countries of the Persian Gulf and also not only Arab countries but also Iran. And of course the UN Security Council permanent members, and other countries, including Turkey."

Syria's largest opposition group says it is still waiting for an official invitation by the UN to attend peace talks in Geneva. The Syrian National Coalition is meeting in Istanbul to discuss whether to attend the planned negotiations.

The group is opposed to negotiations with the Syrian government unless President al-Assad steps down.

"What we are looking for from Russians is to put pressure on the Syrian regime .... Before we arrive there were need to see some goodwill gestures from the Assad regime... If the Assad regime is serious about a political solution, it needs to start by giving the world some signs that it is actually serious about a political solution," explains Khaled Saleh, the spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition.

So who holds the key to getting the Geneva II peace talks on Syria started?

To discuss this, Inside Syria presenter Jane Dutton is joined by guests: Hussein Shobokshi, a columnist at Asharq Alawsat, an international Arabic newspaper; Rim Turkmani, a member of the political office of Building the Syrian State - a political movement that calls for a democratic transition in the country; and Mohammad Marandi, an associate professor of North American Studies at the University of Tehran.

"Saudi Arabia ... is supporting the rebels, in Syria, the revolutionaries in Syria and of course and it wants an end to this massacre. But we cannot provide al-Assad with a carte blanche to continue this massacre. He has been given an extended lifeline while he should have been punished and stopped … Iran is part of the problem and not part of the solution."

Hussein Shobokshi, a columnist at Asharq Alawsat, an international Arabic newspaper


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