Syria’s opposition renews call for talks with Assad, but the country’s fate will be determined elsewhere
After a two-day meeting in Geneva, the Syrian Negotiation Commission expressed hope to see talks resume with the Assad regime. However, with Syria’s return to the Arab League, prospects for action have faded. Reconstruction has been left to individual initiatives amid widespread poverty and a teetering economy. Many factors are at play involving Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Ukraine war, and Turkey’s Erdoğan.
Damascus (AsiaNews) – After years of violence, after the bloodiest phase of the war and Syria’s return to the Arab League ending its regional isolation, Syrian opposition leaders are urging President Bashar al-Assad to accept fresh talks in order to rebuild the country.
"We are in a holding position,” a source in the capital told AsiaNews. “We do not yet see major changes. The central issue remains the economy, and fighting widespread poverty is priority.
“Ultimately, we must wait for decisions taken at the international level to see if change is really possible, in order to rebuild with greater freedom and organisation, not only relying on the initiatives of individuals as is the case now.”
The Syrian opposition, which met yesterday, called for the resumption of moribund UN-sponsored talks with President Assad, which have led nowhere so far.
Negotiations stalled in 2018 with the fate of the president as the main obstacle to a political transition that would see Syria adopt a new constitution and Syrians go to the polls.
The meetings and negotiations held in the past five years have failed and there are no signs that they might be renewed any time soon.
“The international, regional and Syrian conditions provide an appropriate circumstance for the resumption of direct negotiations… under a specific agenda and timetable,” the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) said in a statement.
The latter, which includes representatives from the main political opposition alliance, the Syrian National Coalition, was the main opposition delegation in past UN talks held in Geneva, Switzerland.
In its statement, after a two-day meeting in the Swiss city, it called on “brotherly and friendly countries to support the efforts of the UN to take all necessary resolutions to fulfil a comprehensive political solution.”
The anti-Assad front is looking for a solution in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which set out a roadmap for a political transition.
After 12 years of war and over half a million dead, amid widespread hunger, the opposition is hoping to talk with those in power after fighting them for so long so as that reconstruction can start.
However, more recently, the opposition has lost much of its momentum and support, especially among the countries of the region, starting with Saudi Arabia, which has re-established ties with Assad and approved Syria’s return to the Arab League, despite Qatar’s opposition.
Turkey too appears poised to renew ties with the Assad regime, although what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will do after his electoral victory, only time will tell.
Meanwhile, late last month, UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said that “new diplomatic activity in the region could be an opportunity, if seized,” stressing the need for “constructive Syrian engagement”.
Hopefully, “talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran and Syria’s return to the Arab League can really lead to change, even though there are no clear prospects,” the source told AsiaNews.
“A lot depends on the evolution of the Russian war in Ukraine, as well as Erdoğan’s and Putin’s moves, because many interests are at stake. What is missing is a decision, and a vision, a perspective at the international level.”
"The worst phase seems to be over, and the desire to start anew is strong, but the two sides need mutual trust, which has been lost. People want peace and stability, they want to fight against despair and poverty.”