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The Syrian crisis: is it the time for Geneva III?

The Levant Exclusive – By Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh –

With the failure of the Geneva II peace conference for Syria, the option of a political resolution seems to back on the table again. The peace talks held in Geneva faced off between the US priority of a political transition in Syria and the Russian focus on combatting terrorism in Syria.

With the developments of the last few months, combatting terrorism has become an imposed priority as efforts to support the moderate opposition groups in order to replace the terrorist movements have also failed.

The recent developments have also see the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, return to Damascus, with the goal of agreement on first steps towards a practical solution that does not involve immediate political change.

The plan to ‘freeze’ conflict in key areas would be one of these first steps, and it would also guarantee safe corridors for the return of refugees. This is particularly pointed as the return of Syrian refugees in an increasing issue in Lebanon and Jordan, where many of the refugees have fled.

Meanwhile, the Russian’s have accelerated diplomatic efforts to achieve a political solution based on mutual understanding between the various groups in Syria. Moscow is charting an unconventional course, targeting the varied groups in Syria, convincing them to be a part of a political solution.

The Russians are looking to return to Geneva with a coalition of Syrian groups, and using their combined agreement to build a political solution and avoid the mistakes of Geneva II. For the Russians, combatting terrorism can be deprioritized, as long as there is a real alternative that does not involve political change.

Any political settlement in Syria would impact the surrounding countries, particularly Jordan. The geographic, economic and social links between Syria and Jordan dictate that a new reality in Syria will lead to changes in Jordan.

A Jordanian government capable of dealing with the consequences of these developments would require the diplomatic and political skills to negotiate an integral part of any regional settlement.

In order to be successful in this endeavor, Jordan-Syrian relations would need to be revised. There would need to be a strong partnership based on mutual strategic interests that enables Jordan to control and play a key role in the tensions between Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh

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