Syria peace talks taking 'baby steps' forward

Syria peace talks taking 'baby steps' forward
3 min read
24 March, 2016
Syria's warring parties are taking small steps towards agreeing on basic principles at the fresh rounds of peace talks in Geneva.
Little has changed since the last round of peace talks in February [Getty]

Syrian officials and opposition parties are expected to agree to a document drawn up by a UN special envoy outlining basic principles described as a "baby step" forward, at Thursday’s session peace talks in Geneva before they adjourn.

The talks between US and Russian foreign ministers intend to push towards an end to the five year conflict that has killed more than 470,000 and displaced millions more, causing an international refugee crisis.

"We are looking with great interest, expectation, hope that the talks in Moscow will be productive," UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said after meeting the opposition High Negotiations Committee [HNC] in Geneva.

Russia has rallied behind Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, offering aerial support, operational guidance and training throughout the conflict.

Lavrov reaffirmed Russia's position, telling Kerry that diplomatic efforts had been focused on creating a "balance of interests" among all sides involved in the Syrian crisis, including Moscow and Washington.

But a Washington-Moscow deal calling for the cessation of hostilities created by a five year conflict, remains disregarded and at risk of collapse.

"We both know that more needs to be done in terms of both the reduction of violence and the flow of humanitarian goods," Kerry told Lavrov.

But the peace process is riddled with stumbling blocks including Assad's fate in the future of Syria, with the government suggesting any talk of Assad leaving Syria's leadership would be "a red line."

The opposition's proposal is based on the Geneva Communique and Resolution 2254, demanding Assad and his "clique" step down at the start of the transition, head of the HNC Asaad al-Zoabi told The New Arab.

By contrast, he said, the Syrian regime's proposal for transition focused on a war against "terrorism", and suggested forming a new government which would only include opposition figures not involved in the fight against the regime.

The UN-brokered negotiations are the latest international efforts attempting to find a resolution to Syria's complicated conflict.

This government would also serve under Assad, something which all members of the mainstream opposition squarely reject.

A new constitution would be drafted before being put to a referendum, but there is no reference to presidential elections in the government's proposal, al-Zoabi added.

The UN-brokered negotiations are the latest international efforts attempting to find a resolution to Syria's complicated conflict.

The talks bring together government representatives, including negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari with members of the main opposition group, HNC to discuss concerns including potential elections, the shape of a new government as well as the fate of Assad.

"Honestly not everything will be solved in one day - but (it would be) productive ... to resume the talks with a much more in-depth address on the issue of political transition," Mistura said ahead of the planned meeting in Moscow.