International dialogue to decide Syria's fate 'will exclude Syrians'

International dialogue to decide Syria's fate 'will exclude Syrians'
Analysis: Regional powers have chosen to exclude Syrians from talks, as Washington involves Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan in negotiations over Assad's future.
4 min read
20 October, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry wants international and regional interests to be in tune [Getty]

International and regional powers no longer need to include their Syrian political allies in negotiations about the future of their country. In fact, they are now ignoring them, in the same way they ignore Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, preferring to negotiate directly with each other to decide the fate of Syria.

Negotiations around Syria have been limited to the US and Russia, but it seems the pair have decided to open talks to other players, with meetings to officially start later this week, in a European country, according to US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Comments made by Kerry on Monday in the Spanish capital, Madrid, were brief yet vague, though he specified regional states would be involved in the talks: "It is Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and Russia."

He did not mention Iran.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Turkey was ready to accept a political transition in Syria in which Assad remains in "symbolic power" for six months before leaving office.

It quoted a senior Ankara official who spoke on condition of anonymity: "Work on a plan for Assad's departure is underway... [Assad] can stay for six months and we accept that because there will be a guarantee of his departure."

Kerry said the latest talks would be held this week, but specified neither time nor place, which implies that the idea is still embryonic and these details are yet to emerge.
We have a moral interest to try and stop this unfolding catastrophe
- US Secretary of State John Kerry

Moscow has yet to announce whether it had agreed to the US proposal, but confirmed that officials were considering the idea.

Such a meeting "would not be at summit level", said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman of the Russian president.

A source in Washington DC told al-Araby al-Jadeed that Russia may "set conditions for the talks, including involving Tehran, something that the next few days or hours may reveal".

Kerry said on Monday that he was calling for negotiations "to try and avoid the complete and total destruction of Syria", and subsequent implications for the region and Europe, particularly concerning refugees.

The US had "a moral interest to try and stop this unfolding catastrophe", and that there was a need to consider the best options for Syria's future, he added.

Kerry's warning about the complete destruction of Syria may be an implication that the US does not, at the moment, see it as necessary to remove Assad's regime.

It is also interesting that Kerry mentioned these talks in Spain, whose government leans towards the Russian position, which states that the Assad regime must be part of any transitional political process in Syria. The US, however, believes that Assad's departure is unavoidable to achieve peace in the country.

Kerry returned to Washington after meetings in Madrid with King Philip VI of Spain, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

He was due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Germany this week and Palestinian Authority President Abbas later, at an as-yet-unspecified location in the Middle East.

Regardless of the differences in positions on Assad, the various regional and international powers agree that a political settlement accepted by the Syrian people is the best way forward for the country.

However, as regional and international powers aim to bring stability to Syria, their main goal could be to restore some sort of balance to their conflicting interests, which may not necessarily be consistent with the best interests of the Syrian people.

It should be noted that the regional and international talks on Syria will roughly coincide with the resumption of negotiations - under UN supervision - over the crisis in Yemen.

This indicates that there is a genuine attempt to resolve crises in the region in a comprehensive manner, so as to ensure that major regional and international players would secure a share of their interests in the region and avoid the dangers arising from conflicts getting out of control.