|Kerry and Lavrov, the architects of Geneva-2|
John Kerry and the 10 other members of the “Friends of Syria” core group are meeting in Amman today to push for a Geneva-2 conference the U.S. secretary of state consented to with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The Geneva framework envisages bringing together representatives of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian opposition to agree a joint “transitional government with full executive powers” to end more than two years of internecine strife.
The “Friends of Syria” sitting with Kerry at the Amman meeting are the foreign ministers of Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the UAE and Egypt.
Like most Syrians and Syria-watchers, two Arab political analysts still have their misgivings about the proposed Geneva-2, which they sum up in a sentence each.
- “Circumstances have changed, and so has the friendship,” Iyad Abu Shakra writes for Saudi Arabia’s leading daily Asharq Alawsat.
- “Geneva-2 places the Syrian opposition between two fires,” Ms Bahia Mardini suggests in a think piece for Elaph, the first independent online Arab newspaper.
In the view of Abu Shakra, who specialized in Middle Eastern Studies at The University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS):
Does Syria have any friends left?
The question is relevant in the countdown to the meeting in Amman of the 11 members making up the “Friends of Syria” core group.
Above all, what are some of the “Friends of Syria” exactly after? And can all those sitting at the Amman round-table be described as friends?
The Syrian uprising is today looking for friends right and left but hardly finding any who would bring to a close the Syrian regime’s crackdown and its rush to partition Syria by blitzing Homs city and the rural areas of Homs province.
With due respect to the true “friends” who are being pressured by global kingmakers, a majority of partakers in Amman today will hopefully recognize that the Syrian people deserve some measure of truthfulness and a greater measure of courage in the face of those conspiring against them.
Honestly, is there any hope of Assad and his inner circle stepping aside with Lavrov tailoring a Syria solution and towing Kerry along by the hand?
Can any brainy observer imagine Tehran – which has been investing men, money, arms and all sorts of services in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon for three decades – simply turn its back, walk away and bury its regional ambitions?
Frankly, no one will answer the questions positively, save for Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, and perhaps John Kerry.
According to Ms Mardini:
The Syrian opposition is sitting hesitantly between the two fires of a political solution.
One fire would char her if she accepted to sit with the Assad regime after it killed at least 80,000 Syrians.
The other fire would scorch her internationally if she refused, given that the chances of American intervention are zilch and the Syria crisis has now gone into the international bazaar.
Overnight, a senior State Department official gave reporters a background briefing on Kerry’s trip to Amman.
I have excerpted remarks the official made in the course of the curtain raiser (that you can read in full here):
(The meeting in Amman) is basically to review where we are on Syria, and obviously there’s going to be a discussion both about the situation on the ground in the country. I’m sure there will be a discussion of the refugee situation since the Turkish and Jordanian foreign ministers will be there. There will certainly be a discussion about Geneva, and there’ll be a discussion about what things our countries need to be doing in the days and weeks ahead. So it is part of an ongoing set of discussions. It is not by itself a particularly – it’s not a place where we’re coming to make big decisions because we’re in touch with these countries regularly anyway.
With respect to Geneva and the opposition’s attendance, I don’t think any of the different opposition elements have yet announced definitively whether or not they will attend. And of course, the opposition, the political opposition, is in the middle of meetings right now in Istanbul to pick a new leadership. So we will work intensely with that new leadership in the run-up to Geneva.
Let me say a couple of things about the fighting in Qusayr, which is up near Homs. It’s southwest of the city of Homs. It is the most visible effort we have seen of Hezbollah to engage directly in the fighting in Syria as a foreign force. We understand there are also Iranians up there. That is what the Free Syrian Army commanders are telling us. I think this is an important thing to note, the direct implication of foreigners fighting on Syrian soil now for the regime.
With respect to the Syrian regime’s strategy leading up to Geneva, I would just say that we have long said – and the Secretary has said – that it is important to change Bashar al-Assad’s calculations in order to get to a political settlement and that the balance on the ground – the military balance on the ground is a huge factor in those calculations, and we understand that. And so one of the things we’ll be talking about here in Amman tomorrow is what else needs to be done with respect to the military balance on the ground.
For us, the important thing is for (Assad regime) to understand the purpose of this new meeting in Geneva is to discuss how to implement fully – and I want to emphasize those words – how to implement fully the Geneva communiqué, which stipulates that there will be a transition governing body established with full executive authority, including over the military and the security apparatus and that will be established by mutual consent.
The final invite list for the Geneva conference is still being worked on. It’ll be an issue tomorrow, I am sure, on the agenda of the 11 foreign ministers meeting here in Jordan. But also we have to talk to countries that are not here. We’ll certainly have to talk to the Russians more, and we’ll have to talk also to the United Nations because they very well will have a big role. And so that final attendance list is still under discussion.
The Syrian opposition has been invited to Amman, both Gen. (Salim) Idriss or a representative from him for the Supreme Military Command as well as the political opposition. So they’ve both been invited. I’m not sure exactly yet who is attending.
Certainly there are (arms) contracts that predate the outbreak of the Syrian revolution that the Russians are delivering equipment under. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t suspend deliveries given the extraordinary circumstances in which Syria now finds itself, but legalistically, they are correct; these are old contracts.