The Syrian government delegation is trying to stall the progress of the negotiations currently being held in Geneva, while it seems UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura and the Syrian opposition delegation are insistent on entering seriously into negotiations and discussions of the political transition process, an issue which the regime views as a threat, especially since the discussions will touch upon the fate of President Assad in power.
Comments gathered from Western diplomats familiar with the atmosphere of the Geneva talks, and from analysts and Syrian opposition figures, suggest that the regime delegation is wasting time in hopes of evading the discussion of Assad’s fate, which is the point of contention which led to the collapse of the talks in Geneva II when the regime refused to discuss it.
A Western diplomat, referring to head regime negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari’s cynicism, said: “He will spend every minute questioning the nature of the opposition, quibbling about the font in the agenda,” according to a Reuters agency report on Monday.
The agency quoted a diplomat involved in the talks as saying that Assad was not used to compromise, and Jaafari’s negotiating position was rigid, adding that: “He has to have control. If he gives up 1 percent, he loses 100 percent. He's designed like that.”
Sources familiar with the talks noted that there are disagreements between the UN envoy and Jaafari, as de Mistura sees the Syrian diplomat as interested in secondary issues which are unimportant, and it seems that the insistence of the regime delegation on refusing to discuss the “status of the presidency,” according to Jaafari’s expression, incited the ire of de Mistura, who said that “Jaafari needs to be realistic.”
Jaafari’s comments that the chief opposition negotiator, Mohamed Alloush, should shave his beard as a requirement for sitting with the opposition sparked ridicule among diplomats, analysts and those following the Geneva talks, who considered his comments to be an attempt to confuse and try to derail the negotiations by any means, especially since the decision to withdraw a large part of Russian forces from Syria coincided surprisingly with the start of the talks, giving rise to fears in the regime, which it seems its Russian ally is attempting to distance itself from.
It appears the regime delegation will oppose the increase of pressure until the end of the current round of negotiations in Geneva on Thursday. The UN envoy delivered the regime and opposition delegations 29 questions and asked them for responses. These questions are a serious test of the regime’s intentions in Geneva and how serious it is about reaching a political solution, especially given that de Mistura sent limited and clear questions regarding the view of the two parties about a political transition.
The regime delegation presented its “basic elements of a political solution” to de Mistura which were completely devoid of discussion of the political transition, which the envoy considers the essence of the negotiations.
Al-Souria Net learned from sources in Geneva that the UN envoy met with the opposition delegation, who will give him responses to the questions which he presented to them. This comes as de Mistura has been praising the performance of the opposition delegation and its seriousness in the negotiations.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.