Geneva II could be first step to solve Syrian crisis

Updated: 2014-01-22 09:18


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DAMASCUS -- Both delegations of the Syrian government and opposition arrived in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday evening to embark on a dialogue for the first time since the eruption of the conflict in Syria nearly three years ago.

The so-called Geneva II conference, which will open on Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland, marks the first step on the long road of political negotiations between the warring sides in the Syrian conflict, analysts said.

Despite numerous unsolved differences between both sides, analysts said the chances are high for cementing a political solution.

"The success chances are high... we either can see full success of the conference or half success," Hmaidi Abdullah, a political expert, told Xinhua.

He said that the issues that will be discussed in Geneva II are divided into three categories: the first one is the military situation on ground, the second one is the humanitarian file, and the third is the formation of a transitional government.

Regarding the military situation, Abdullah said that the recent proposal of Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem about a ceasefire in the northern city of Aleppo and possible prisoner swap with the rebels is an indicator that a halt of military operations is possible if the rebels committed themselves to ceasefire.

Last week, after meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, al-Moallem announced the proposal, which was read by observers as a government's goodwill offer before the Geneva II conference.

Abdullah said al-Moallem's proposal was the keyword for the negotiations in Geneva regarding the military showdown in Syria, adding that such proposal is surely accepted by the superpowers, which means a solution for the ongoing battles could be within reach in the conference.

In terms of the humanitarian file, Abdullah noted that features of solutions in the humanitarian field have started to be seen recently on ground, following the government's acceptance to allow in relief aid to a number of besieged areas in Syria.

Abdullah said the convoys of aid are entering the besieged areas in Syria, adding that negotiations are underway between the government and the local communities in the those areas for seeking a solution, marking a beginning of reconciliation in some of the troubled areas.

Syrian state media has recently been reporting the surrender of tens of armed rebels in some hotspots of the capital Damascus as part of deals concluded with the Syrian officials.

About the third file in the Geneva II conference, Abdulla said the formation of a transitional government will be discussed and there are two options: "an agreement to form the transitional government will be reached, and in this case we can say that the Geneva II conference has 100 percent succeeded, or it will not reach an agreement about the government and in this case we can say that the conference succeeded 50 percent because at least the humanitarian and military files would probably be solved."

Other observers believe that the formation of a transitional government is the thorniest issue in the negotiations, because both parties of the conflict have their own interpretations to this issue.

For the opposition, the transitional government should exclude President Bashar al-Assad and his cronies, while the Syrian government rejects the opposition's talks about Assad's departure.

Al-Moallem said Tuesday that subjects related to the status of al-Assad are "red lines" and can't be "touched".

Al-Moallem made the remarks upon his arriving to Geneva Tuesday evening, heading a Syrian official delegation to participate in the conference.

The minister's remarks came apparently to make the Syrian government's stance clear ahead of the conference, hinting that the government's delegation to Geneva will not accept talks about Assad's departure.

The Syrian government repeatedly said that it wasn't going to Geneva to hand over the power, but to negotiate with the opposition to find a solution to the crisis.

It also said that the peace talks must focus on combating terrorism in Syria, while the opposition wants the conference to lead to the formation of a transitional government without any role for al-Assad.

Despite the hurdles, the conference would surely be the first step on the political track to solve the crisis in Syria, local analysts said.