Hopes for Geneva-II

DIPLOMACY STANDS a chance to win in Geneva as all the stakeholders are in for a brainstorming session. The decision to invite Iran to take part in preliminary Syrian peace talks is a welcome development.

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Published: Wed 22 Jan 2014, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:32 PM

The fact that the umbrella organisation of Syrian opposition parties, the Syrian National Council, has also agreed to participate in the broad-based framework of dialogue makes it an interesting affair, and it is quite likely that an understanding can be reached on how to normalise the situation in the war-torn country.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who extended the invitation to Tehran, has walked the extra mile and exhibited leadership. The coincidence is that the invitation to the Islamic republic came the day the nuclear deal agreed on in Geneva was to go into effect. Ban made the decision to make the Syrian ally part of the dialogue process despite strong opposition from several European and regional countries, including the United States. It reflects that the world body is interested in brokering a thaw. The onus is now on Iran to play a positive role in securing a deal that is acceptable to all. Any bias at the end of the day will serve as a monkey wrench and derail the whole initiative. The same is expected from anti-Damascus forces who shouldn’t insist on a surprise outcome from the winter comforts of Switzerland.

The dialogue process can be fruitful only if it is sustained and explored in a comprehensive manner. The regime in Syria as well as the opposition elements need to be very clear as to what their objectives are as far as bringing the civil strife to an end is concerned. It is here that the international interlocutors should come in to act as a catalyst in compelling the divergent forces to strike a deal. The words from the US State Department should serve as a basis for interaction and lead to a breakthrough. In a statement, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Washington viewed the world body’s invitation as conditioned on Iran’s explicit and public support for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué, including the establishment of a transitional governing body by mutual consent with full executive authorities. This is where the chips can fall if Tehran or Damascus strongly react to the political message between the lines.

President Bashar Al Assad, in an interview with a Russian news agency, had said that his exit is not an option on the table. It would be better if the parleys in Geneva were construed in a manner that is pro-conflict resolution than one making it an open-ended debate on the political ambitions of the warring parties.

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