Negotiations on Syria: on the eve of another failure

The new round of inter-Syrian negotiations, on Monday March 14th in Geneva, will bring together representatives of various opposition groups, the Syrian Kurds, and representatives of the government in Damascus.

The failure of the preceding round

The last round of talks, held in late January, ended without any meaningful results. The Syrian Kurds were not included in the negotiation process because of the position of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The Turks and the Saudis tried to lobby for the participation of the terrorist groups "Ahrar al-Sham" and “Jaish al-Islam". The parties have not yet reached a basic agreement on the future of Assad.

Russian-American truce

The new round of negotiations starts after an agreement on a ceasefire in Syria was signed - the fruit of the negotiations between Russia and the United States. Both superpowers insisted that their Syrian proxies join the ceasefire. It is significant that an inter-Syrian settlement agreement was reached between the Americans and Russians, and not the Syrians. This demonstrates that, in essence, the war in Syria is a geopolitical conflict between Russia and the United States.

The US is a beneficiary

The ceasefire is beneficial primarily for the US, with Russia being made to join it after unprecedented pressure. The militants trained by the United States now have the opportunity to recover. Should the Syrian authorities and the Russian Air Force continue hostilities against the groups included in the ceasefire, the US can use it as a reason to accuse Damascus and Russia of being in violation of the agreement, and can apply measures of force against them, including sanctions.

Syria's war continues

Despite a ceasefire agreement in Syria, the clashes continue. Recently, opposition fighters, using a MANPADs, shot down a Syrian Air Force Mig-21. After the bloody terrorist attack in Ankara on 13th March, Turkey has accused the Kurds of being involved, which increases the chances of a Turkish invasion in northern Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry has officially confirmed the rumors that the Turkish army has built fortifications on the Syrian side of the border.

The chances are small

Negotiations have not yet begun, but already a part of the opposition has rejected Damascus’ offer. The head of the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, said that his delegation has come to Geneva only for 24 hours, and would not discuss the presidential elections and the proposal to federalize the country. Representatives of the pro-Saudi opposition (High Negotiations Committee) announced that this stance effectively writes off the negotiations.

Despite the truce, the positions of the main players - Russia and Iran on the one hand, and the United States, Turkey, and the Saudis on the other - are radically different. Russia needs to save face, save its ally in the region, and deter ISIS. Iran needs a united strong Syria as a continuation of the Shiite Crescent in the Mediterranean region, the Levant, and Palestine. The US is ready to play the Kurdish card, block Iran, and negate Russia's successes. Goal number one for the Saudis and Qatar is the toppling of Assad. Turkey seeks to overthrow Assad and also to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state beyond their control. In terms of the diametrically opposed objectives, it is difficult to expect the Syrian groups, which have differing points of view, to come to any viable agreement.

Will the Kurds be involved?

It is not clear whether or not the Kurds of Northern Syria will participate in the negotiations, as Turkey is still against their presence. First of all we are talking about the structures of the PYD party ("Democratic Union"), which collaborate with the PKK, and govern the Kurdish controlled areas of Syria. In order to reject the accusations of ignoring the interests of the Kurds, the representatives of the pro-Saudi opposition included a Kurd, who, however, does not represent a powerful force in the Kurdish community. Despite this, the HNC declared that they have a representative of the Kurdish community within their composition.