MESOP Syria Daily: Are the Political Talks Doomed to Failure?

April 17 – 2016 – by Scott – eaworldview – Doubts over Syria’s political talks grew on Saturday, following the Assad Government’s continued rejection of any discussion of President Assad’s future.The Assad regime’s delegation returned to discussions with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva on Friday. However, after a two-hour meeting, the head of the delegation, Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, again dismissed any negotiation of a transitional governing authority. Instead, he put the onus on de Mistura to work with the regime’s amendments to the envoy’s text: “We will once again discuss our proposal the next time we will meet on Monday.”In a further sign of the stalemate, De Mistura cancelled his scheduled press briefing.

The transitional governing authority has been the focus of international proposals since June 2012; however, Assad said last month that he will not consider it and instead called for pursuit of a “national unity government” which he will continue to lead. Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi reiterated on Friday that there will be no discussion of the President’s future.

The opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee, which met de Mistura on Wednesday and Thursday, said that it will work with regime members in a transition. However, these cannot include Assad or any “criminals” responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in the five-year conflict.

The HNC criticized the regime for the “strong message that it doesn’t want a political solution, but a military solution that will bring destruction to the whole country”.

On Saturday, the leading rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham called on the HNC to leave the talks:

There is a clear division between the work of the [HNC] and the reality on the ground, for while Russia realises field gains for the benefit of the regime, giving it political momentum, and while the regime and Iran breach the truce….We see insistence from the [HNC] on pursuing the negotiations.

Ahrar al-Sham participated in talks in Saudi Arabia in December to form an opposition-rebel bloc. However, unlike fellow rebels Jaish al-Islam and Free Syrian Army groups, it did not sign the document establishing the HNC.

On Saturday, Ahrar al-Sham said the HNC’s performance had been “weak and stumbling”, opening a “gulf” between it and “the revolutionary street with all its military and civilian elements”.