Monday,23 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1289, (31 March - 6 April 2016)
Monday,23 July, 2018
Issue 1289, (31 March - 6 April 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Towards a Syrian transition

With the international focus now on the fight against the Islamic State, agreement on a formula for a political transition in Syria appears more and more likely, reports Camelia Entekhabifard from New York

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Syria talks in Geneva wrapped up last weekend as the truce between the Syrian government led by President Bashar Al-Assad and the opposition continued. Negotiators are expected to meet again on 11 April.

Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy to Syria, briefed journalists in New York on 24 March and was optimistic about the next round of negotiations.

“We have been planning to have a UN Security Council meeting to build on what has been achieved in both diplomatic arenas,” he told journalists.

With more international focus on the fight against the terrorist Islamic State (IS) group, reconciliation between the opposition and the Syrian government looks more and more likely.

From Washington to Moscow and Tehran to Damascus there is much going on behind the scenes to make the necessary preparations for the political transition in Syria in such a way that Al-Assad leaves office.

“Syria is willing to take part in an international coalition against terrorism, but only if the United States will work with Damascus in a way it has not done so far,” Syria’s envoy to the Geneva peace talks, Bashar Al-Jafari, said on Monday.

Political changes and shifting policy in the region and among the key players in Syria are expected. Major decisions are likely to be made by the end of the next round of the Syria talks.

Iran’s position on Al-Assad’s removal is not known, and it may be that Russia has been chosen to speak on Iran’s behalf. The transition process is expected to be easier without Tehran’s direct involvement.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, freshly retuned from Moscow where he met President Vladimir Putin and discussed Syria with his Russian counterpart, was also optimistic about solving the crisis. He called on Russia to help the United States.

“What we agreed on in Moscow with President Putin was that we now have a stronger protocol for how to continue to keep things working. We can keep open the political space to negotiate and hopefully effect this transition,” Kerry said in an interview on 27 March.

“There has to be a political transition, and Russia, as did Iran, signed on with a public affirmation of that position in the communiqué issued twice in Vienna, and then subsequently in the UN Security Council Resolution that passed unanimously. Then in Munich, again they reaffirmed this transition must take place,” Kerry said.

If Iran continues to support the transition and stands with Russian, perhaps the next step will be a coalition formed under the United Nations umbrella to fight terrorism.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Kerry agreed to push for a political transition in Syria by having a new draft constitution for the country ready by August.

“As the immediate task, we have agreed to push for the soonest start of direct talks between the government delegation and the whole spectrum of the opposition,” which will help to create “a transitional governance structure” for Syria, Lavrov said.

The Iranian news media reported phone conversations between Iran and the Russian president on 28 March. The Fars news agency said that Putin briefed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on recent negotiations on Syria and other regional matters.

Referring to Kerry’s recent visit to Russia, Putin said, “Moscow is coordinated with Iran,” the Iranian media reported.

Rouhani also posted a tweet on his personal account mentioning his phone conversations with Putin. “In a phone conversation with the Russian president, stressed the need for a lasting ceasefire in Syria and the acceleration of negotiations,” Rouhani tweeted.

Meanwhile, the Iranian media has been reporting the angry reactions of the country’s powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) commanders, who are against Al-Assad’s removal from power. However, they will not be taken seriously if the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, does not oppose the agenda.

With the global security threats posed by terrorists exported from Syria, there is now no choice other than to make peace between the Syrian government and the opposition in a political transition that will be in all Syrians’ best interests.

The major world powers now see the need to focus on the fight against terrorism, and this goal is more important than the fate of Al-Assad, which has already been agreed between the United States and Russia.

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