The Syrian conflict

Mendacious diplomacy

As the war in Syria rolls on and civilians continue to die, caught in the deadly crossfire of a multi-front conflict, the Syrian military and political opposition – bowing to intense international diplomatic pressure – has been dragged into political negotiations that lack the minimum conditions for success. Essay by Burhan Ghalioun, former chairman of the Syrian opposition Transitional National Council

In the absence of any respect for previous commitments or any clear international assurances, when the legal and political framework is so ambiguous and Russia is imposing diktats, it was only natural that the negotiations in Astana and Geneva should turn out to be manoeuvrings, the main purpose of which was to weaken the position of the opposition and secure the positions of the regime and its allies.

So instead of giving Syrians new hope that a political solution that meets their minimum aspirations can be reached, this round of sterile negotiations has added to their frustration. Scepticism is deepening that future negotiations in Astana or Geneva can ever produce the results Syrians are waiting for: an end to the war of aggression and the beginning of a real transition process, preparing for a new Syria where peace, brotherhood, justice and democracy ultimately prevail.

These negotiations have highlighted an array of facts that threaten to undermine the whole political process, if they have not done so already. The most important of them are:

The aim of these negotiations was not to meet the aspirations of Syrians, guarantee their sovereignty over their territory, restore their national unity, or guarantee their fundamental rights to dignity, just governance and equality before the law. It was to legitimise the military and political regional gains achieved by the members of the anti-revolutionary alliance and their internal and external agents – and thereby to exacerbate the struggle to divide the country into zones of influence.

Wounded girl being carried from the rubble by a member of the White Helmets in the rebel-held town of Douma, Syria, in February 2017 (photo: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP/Getty Images)
The destruction is ongoing: "scepticism is deepening that future negotiations in Astana or Geneva can ever produce the results Syrians are waiting for: an end to the war of aggression and the beginning of a real transition process, preparing for a new Syria where peace, brotherhood, justice and democracy ultimately prevail," writes Ghalioun

As a result, the Assad regime and its allies still insist on ignoring U.N. resolutions, including those of the Security Council, evading their implementation while playing for time and attempting to resolve the conflict through military means.

The agenda for the negotiations, which ignores the confidence-building measures envisaged by the Security Council, demonstrates the extent of their contempt for the lives of Syrians and their tragic plight. They have consummately failed to end random bombing, release detainees, break the starvation blockade, or stop forced displacement and demographic cleansing operations for strategic objectives in several areas.

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