Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1300, (16 - 22 June 2016)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1300, (16 - 22 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Syria talks risk collapse

Bassel Oudat — Damascus

Al-Ahram Weekly

Al-Ahram Weekly sources in Damascus, Sanaa, Riyadh and Geneva report that negotiations on both the Syrian and Yemeni crises are going nowhere, with the talks on the Syrian conflict facing a total collapse

SOURCES in the Syrian opposition have told Al-Ahram Weekly that the next round of talks in Geneva on the Syrian crisis has been postponed until after Ramadan and Eid — in other words, to July at the earliest.

But sources close to UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura told the Weekly that August is a more likely date for the resumption of negotiations. In contrast, European diplomats familiar with the Syrian issue told the Weekly that this is only a tentative date that is likely to change.

In July, the US diplomatic corps takes a break, sources say, while August marks the official beginning of the US presidential race, which will last for several months, during which the US administration will take no decisive action on any foreign policy issue, particularly one as complicated as Syria.

These successive postponements demonstrate the magnitude of US and Russian disagreement on Syria. No rapprochement has occurred that would allow the two superpowers to follow through on their repeated promises. This August is the official deadline for political change in Syria, which would lay the groundwork for an end to the destructive civil war.

At the Vienna conference in November the International Syria Support Group, led by Russia and the US, released a timetable for the negotiated political process in Syria, to begin with a political transition and a new constitution by August, in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 2245. The foreign ministers of both the US and Russia affirmed the timetable at the most recent meeting in Vienna held in May.

In this context, the Weekly has learned that envoys of US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been meeting regularly in Bern, Switzerland, for the last three weeks to reach an understanding on basic issues that could prevent a total collapse in Syria, and to lay new foundations for any future negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the regime.

Sources in the Syrian opposition said that the office of the UN envoy is not appraised of the details of these meetings. Stranger still, Staffan de Mistura is complaining that both parties are denying him information about what is happening in Bern.

It is widely thought that if the US and Russia do not agree on the basis and timetable for the political and military process in Syria before the end of Ramadan and do not set new, immediately binding conditions on all Syrian parties involved in the war negotiations will be postponed until a new US president arrives to the Oval Office. This delay would likely lead to more intensive military action and threaten to derail negotiations entirely.

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