Skip to main content

Kerry Calls for 'Negotiated Outcome' in Syria

Al-Monitor’s coverage and analysis of the upcoming visits by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East, Kerry’s call for a negotiated outcome in Syria and Tunisia’s worsening crisis.
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 13:  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh shake hands during a joint press conference at the State Department February 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. Kerry and Judeh met privately to discuss efforts in Syria and on the Middle East peace process among other issues.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Kerry, Obama Visits Offer Hope, Caution

There is truth in the old saw that the United States cannot want peace more than those in the region want it themselves. Geoffrey Aronson writes this week that  Secretary of State John Kerry venturing to the Middle East to listen and seek advice on how best to move the Israeli-Palestinian process forward is akin to seeking advice from inmates on the running of an asylum.

There is some déjà vu here. The Obama administration came into office in 2009 with a similar vigor. President Barack Obama appointed George Mitchell as U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace on Jan. 22, 2009, just two days after the president took office. Mitchell also began with a “listening tour” in the region. The process went nowhere.

A significant difference from 2009 is that Kerry’s visit will precede a trip to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan by President Obama himself next month.

Ben Caspit writes that most Israelis support the peace process, and that Obama could have an even greater impact if he gave a speech at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Nadav Eyal reported for Al-Monitor about a Facebook initiative in Israel to support Obama speaking at the square.

Expectations are still, perhaps prudently, kept in check. In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor this week, Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told Shlomi Eldar that an Israeli freeze on settlements must be a precondition for renewed talks. Daoud Kuttab writes that while Palestinians have an interest in US engagement, it should not hinder the development of their own simultaneous strategic track which is both rights based and anchored in international law. Hazem Balousha reported for Al-Monitor from Gaza that Palestinians there expect nothing much to come of Obama’s visit.

Kerry Calls for Negotiated Solution in Syria

Kerry’s willingness to pursue diplomacy in the Middle East is a marked change from his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, who mostly avoided direct involvement in regional diplomacy and left office with a thin record there, as Barbara Slavin reported here last month

While the outlines of a strategy for Middle East peace may still be in the making, Kerry has already seized on the need for a “negotiated outcome” in Syria. In a press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on Feb. 13, Kerry said: "[M]y goal is to see us have a negotiated outcome and minimize the violence. It may not be possible. I’m not going to stand here and tell you that’s automatic or easily achievable. There are a lot of forces that have been unleashed here over the course of the last months. But we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the Syrian people and the region and the world, to make every effort to explore ways to achieve that negotiated outcome. And we intend to do that.”

Kerry further explained that “the reasons for wanting to have a negotiated solution, which the Syrian Opposition Council leader, "[Moaz al-]Khatib, has himself courageously spoken out about in the last days, is that you want to avoid if you can — if you can, I emphasize — the implosion of the state, because that’s dangerous for everybody. And it proposes the possibility of the worst kinds of outcomes.”

The endgame in Syria, as this column has reported, must include a negotiated outcome between opposition forces and the Syrian government, including Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s Alawi community, to avoid the implosion of the state that Kerry described. 

Al-Khatib’s initiative has received mostly positive support from the National Coordinating Committee, a key player in Syria’s internal opposition, as As-Safir reported this week, translated by Al-Monitor.

The pivot to a negotiated outcome, if it holds, puts further pressure on Turkey, as Tulin Daloglu and Cengiz Candar wrote this week. Ankara’s Syria policies to date have served to accentuate the sectarian and regional aspects of the crisis, rather than moving the crisis toward a political solution.

There will be fits and starts in the effort for a negotiated outcome. Moscow has been seeking to broker a meeting in Moscow between Al-Khatib and Syrian officials, although this is not yet confirmed. The hopeful news is that the United States' willingness to endorse a diplomatic approach with words and deeds strengthens whatever slim chances may exist for ending the Syrian tragedy.

Tunisia ‘Beyond Compromise’

According to Ali Hashem, who reported this week for Al-Monitor from Tunis, the assassination on Feb. 6 of Chokri Belaid, a Tunisian lawyer and opposition leader with the left-secular Democratic Patriots' Movement, “revealed much about what had been unsaid: The struggle for power in the Arab Spring's birthplace is in a place beyond compromise.”

Tunisia has been rocked by demonstrations since the assassination, amid calls for the appointment of a new government. The country is in a state of political despair, as the Islamic governance by the ruling Ennahda Party is stoking fears of an Islamist trend that is squelching democratic and secular forces.

In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Basma Khalfaoui, Belaid’s widow, told Hashem that "Ennahda's leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, threatened [that] he is taking us to court […] When some accused his movement, he didn’t trouble himself to deny [it]. This mentality is destroying the country, but we are going to the end with our request to uncover the truth. We are going to the end."

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial