Washington Deliberates Whether To Embrace Geneva II

Article Summary
Factions of the Syrian opposition abroad have expressed interest in holding the Geneva II conference.

The international Arab mediation team in Syria is set to resume work for the Geneva II conference. According to diplomatic sources, the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Geneva on Aug. 19, 2013 after the Egyptian authorities requested that he vacate the guest residency allocated for the work of the UN team in Cairo.

The team will work over the next three days to prepare for the Geneva II conference since a new tentative date was set for mid-October of this year. This information is according to preliminary communiqués carried out by UN diplomats overseeing preparations for the conference to inform them of the preliminary date decided upon after American-Russian deliberations.

The French capital last week hosted a series of intensified meetings held by the American Ambassador Robert Ford to look over the circumstances of the Syrian opposition abroad. He presented a new “road map” for the conference including the formation of a delegation, the issues that will be looked into, the alternatives suggested by the opposition members to go to Geneva and the potential of arriving at some sort of acceptable balance of power from all sides to sit around the negotiating table.

Syrian opposition sources stated that the American ambassador had presented a new perspective that may be able to break through the prevailing pessimism that caused the Geneva II conference to be postponed until the end of the year at least. He said that the Americans who granted Saudi Arabia and its intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, six months [to achieve] brief victory and to shift the balance of military power on the ground, have come to the conviction that the upheaval of the balance of power in the opposing direction will twist the regime’s arm into going to Geneva.

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A prominent opposition member said that the Americans had deduced that it would be best to try to gather the opposition in Geneva as soon as possible. In reality, Geneva II has become an acceptable option in light of the threat posed by the escalation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which carries out most of the military operations in northern Syria. This latter is also the foremost beneficiary of the balance of power with the Syrian army, as can be clearly seen on the fronts of Latakia, Aleppo, and the Ming military airport.

Another element is prominent in the likelihood of Geneva’s choice and re-mobilizing Brahimi’s team. The Western diplomatic source stated that the Americans’ confidence disappeared once again because of the weakness of information shared by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the inability to rely on it. Ford quoted the head of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmed al-Jarba as saying that they must wait for one additional month before launching the Geneva process, while Gen. Salim Idriss speaks of six additional months necessary to help the Syrian army and shift the balance.

The Americans feel that it is jihadists who are progressing on all fronts, in Raqqah, Latakia, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor. The new internal crisis toward which the coalition is headed is worrying, as it faces demands for a re-election of its political body. This has made setting up the opposition’s internal structure difficult once again, and made it preferable to aim for a transitional government in Geneva.

It would appear that disputes have to do with the formation of a plurality delegation for the opposition that includes its three main groups to help in moving toward Geneva II. It has become apparent that all sides, if a delegation was to be formed from the coalition, the coordination authority and the Supreme Kurdish Authority, with varying percentages, negotiations would proceed accordingly without excluding anyone.

A prominent Syrian opposition figure stated that there is a trend toward holding a meeting that aims to specify the common ground shared with national Syrian opposition based on the necessity of forming a single delegation that follows a shared political platform as follows:

1. The international conference shall be regarded as the commencement of the civil democratic transitional period, not a period for continued authoritarianism or dictatorship in the country and its institutions.

2. The binding and executive nature of the conference’s decisions is of upmost importance, including the means of direct UN participation in the field.

3. The agreement upon a national shared Syrian charter that forms the basis of building the new Syria and authorizing founding texts consecrated during the Helion conference, the National Assembly documents, the coalition and the national agreement at the conference in Cairo.

4. The preparation of a shared draft of the constitutional principles for the transitional period and the priorities of transitional justice according to the circumstances in Syria.

5. Specifying the traits of the ruling authority as not only a government in the traditional sense (with executive power) but a transitional authority with powers that go beyond executive to legislative and judicial during the transitional period.

6. The agreement upon applicable mechanisms related to the role of formations and the role of the security apparatuses in the country, as well as the reformation and building of the military institution.

7. The division of work between political components in a way that is comprehensive and not competitive, allowing them to take advantage of energies and relationships built by the opposition over the past two years of political and diplomatic struggle regionally and internationally.

8. Setting out a national salvation plan that relies upon international mobilization that accompanies the political process wherein the central tasks of relief and reconstruction can be merged into a project that resembles reconstruction projects in bloody conflict areas such as Europe following World War II and the countries that made up the former Yugoslavia.

9. The formation of a chamber for joint operations for the Syrian opposition participated in by competent and experienced figures to draw out a shared media policy, to sow the fabric of powerful relations during the conference and to form lobby groups that back the shared platform.

10. The National Coalition, the coordinating authority, the Supreme Kurdish Authority and the sides not included in these three components shall be invited; military sides may participate in the meeting to contribute their two cents and offer counsel for everything having to do with security and the military. It is assumed that the number of invitees shall not exceed 25 individuals, and decisions are made by consensus.

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Found in: un, syrian, syria, jihadists, geneva
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