MESOP Syria Daily: Assad Regime “Stalling on Political Talks”

March 21 – 2016 – by Scott Lucas – eaworldview – UN envoy Staffan de Mistura and diplomats have said the Assad regime’s delegation is stalling in political talks to resolve Syria’s five-year conflict.De Mistura carefully said of the discussions, which were renewed last Monday in Geneva: The government is currently focusing very much on principles, which are necessary in any type of common ground on the transition. But I hope next week, and I have been saying so to them, that we will get their opinion, their details on how they see the political transition taking place.He said the regime group could not avoid substantive questions forever.

On Friday, the delegation, led by UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, presented a document titled “Basic Elements for a Political Solution” to de Mistura. Officials and diplomats said the text was “very thin”, “bland”, and “off the point”: while mentioning a secular state, territorial integrity, and the fight against terrorism, the elements said nothing about a political transition.

Even before the talks began, the regime ruled out any discussion of President Assad’s future, and Jaafari has maintained the line over the past week.Last Wednesday, he said that talks with the opposition-rebel bloc’s lead negotiator, rebel officer Mohammad Alloush, were not possible: “We will not engage with this terrorist in direct talks, with this terrorist in particular, and so there won’t be any direct talks unless this terrorist apologises and also shaves off his beard.”A “Western diplomat” claimed:Mr Ja’afari is still in a kind of delusion of trying to filibuster his way out of town, or to filibuster the opposition out of town.

He will spend every minute questioning the nature of the opposition, quibbling about the font in the agenda. Another diplomat said that, despite the regime’s tactics, this set of talks will not be sidetracked like previous negotiations, including a short-lived effort last month at “proximity talks” between Assad’s representative and the opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee:

De Mistura is dragging the regime in with his queries on their position paper, rather than allowing them to talk about what they want.The regime had in the past a bit of space to play and to maneuver. The regime knows it has to come and stay but is not prepared for the idea that it has to engage the opposition.