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Another opportunity missed in Syria

The eighth round of peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and the opposition ended on December 14 in utter failure to the dismay of the international community which had hoped that the end of the Syrian conflict could be in sight at last. 

Obviously the two sides are still miles apart on fundamentals related to peace negotiations with each party wanting its vision for peace in Syria put first on the agenda of the talks. 

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura called the failure of the first talks in eight months a “big missed opportunity” to bridge the gap between the two sides. 

The fault for the collapse of the Geneva peace process on Syria lies squarely with Damascus, which rejected calls for direct talks in the first place, preferring instead separate discussions or consultations held in two different chambers. 

The Syrian government delegation did not want to “honour” the opposition with any form of recognition by talking with it face to face and under one roof as a negotiating partner period! More importantly, the Syrian official delegation led by Ambassador Bashar Al Jaafari refused to negotiate or even discuss issues other than terrorism and counterterrorism measures. 

De Mistura emerged from the talks visibly frustrated by calling on Moscow to apply pressure on Damascus to get more serious in the stalled negotiations. Winning the war in Syria is not enough, warned Mistura. Winning the peace is even more important. 

The UN envoy was alluding to the military successes of Damascus over the past two years after the direct intervention of Russia in the conflict by deploying its full might on the side of Damascus. 

The picture that emerges from the failed Geneva peace talks on Syria can be attributed first and foremost to the military situation on the ground. With Damascus and its allies, be they Russia or Iran, successfully tilting the fortunes of the fighting in its favour, it has no real incentive to negotiate in earnest with the militarily weaker opposition side. 

There is no chance that the Geneva peace talks or even the parallel Astana negotiations can be fruitful as long as there is a clear imbalance in the military might between the two sides in the conflict.

Only if and when there a balance or a semblance of balance between the warring parties on the ground would there be is a real opportunity to wage peace in Syria. As long as this balance is absent, no amount of talks or discussions or negotiations would succeed in bridging the gap between Damascus and the opposition and set the stage for serious peace talks. 

Source: Jordan Times

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