Kerry Calls for Negotiated Solution in Syria

Al Monitor –  18.2.2013 – Kerry’s willingness to pursue diplomacy in the Middle East is a marked change from his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, who mostly avoided direct involvement in regional diplomacy and left office with a thin record there, as Barbara Slavin reported here last month.

While the outlines of a strategy for Middle East peace may still be in the making, Kerry has already seized on the need for a “negotiated outcome” in Syria. In a press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on Feb. 13, Kerry said: “[M]y goal is to see us have a negotiated outcome and minimize the violence. It may not be possible. I’m not going to stand here and tell you that’s automatic or easily achievable. There are a lot of forces that have been unleashed here over the course of the last months. But we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the Syrian people and the region and the world, to make every effort to explore ways to achieve that negotiated outcome. And we intend to do that.”

Kerry further explained that “the reasons for wanting to have a negotiated solution, which the Syrian Opposition Council leader, “[Moaz al-]Khatib, has himself courageously spoken out about in the last days, is that you want to avoid if you can — if you can, I emphasize — the implosion of the state, because that’s dangerous for everybody. And it proposes the possibility of the worst kinds of outcomes.”

The endgame in Syria, as this column has reported, must include a negotiated outcome between opposition forces and the Syrian government, including Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s Alawi community, to avoid the implosion of the state that Kerry described. 

Al-Khatib’s initiative has received mostly positive support from the National Coordinating Committee, a key player in Syria’s internal opposition, as As-Safir reported this week, translated by Al-Monitor.

The pivot to a negotiated outcome, if it holds, puts further pressure on Turkey, as Tulin Daloglu and Cengiz Candar wrote this week. Ankara’s Syria policies to date have served to accentuate the sectarian and regional aspects of the crisis, rather than moving the crisis toward a political solution.

There will be fits and starts in the effort for a negotiated outcome. Moscow has been seeking to broker a meeting in Moscow between Al-Khatib and Syrian officials, although this is not yet confirmed. The hopeful news is that the United States’ willingness to endorse a diplomatic approach with words and deeds strengthens whatever slim chances may exist for ending the Syrian tragedy.