Twenty-four hours after the U.N. envoy set 22 January as the date for the Geneva II conference which aims to solve the Syrian crisis by bringing warring parties to negotiations, the stalemate over the fate of President Bashar Assad and his role in any transitional period has returned to stall talks.
Moscow has worked to provide a “compromise" whereby Assad will not be present at talks, but represented by his Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. However the main opposition forces have asked for guarantees that Assad will also be absent in the next phase, not only from the conference.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the peace conference on Syria will be held without Bashar Assad, and in the presence of moderate opposition and regime forces.
The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that the U.S. administration also insists on Assad’s departure, and that the next stage will have "new leadership".
Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogandov said on Tuesday that Moallem will lead the regime’s delegation at Geneva.
Observers say that Moscow is seeking to hold the conference in order to pass a "political solution" that preserves the survival of the regime,even if some of its faces change, to maintains its strategic interests.
In parallel, and despite the Western efforts to convince the Syrian opposition to participate in Geneva II, recent developments have made the opposition reluctant to clarify their participation, especially given what they say is the ambiguity of the conference agenda and the absence of American guarantees regarding the status of Assad.
The Syrian National Coalition announced through its President Ahmad Jarba that it "has not reached a final decision to go to Geneva II.”
At a press conference in Cairo, Jarba said the opposition would not take part in the conference unless there is a clear time frame Assad’s departure from power and that the Coalition cannot accept the participation of Iran in the conference.
The commander of the Free Syrian Army, Salim Idriss meanwhile confirmed that his fighters will not participate in the conference, suggesting that "the conditions are not yet ripe yet to hold it".
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer