Published On: Mon, Jan 25th, 2016

Syria Talks in Geneva Delayed – Kerry from Laos

nsnbc : Syria talks, scheduled to begin in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday have been delayed by the foreign-backed opposition’s High Negotiation Committee. While visiting Laos, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commented that the new date will be known within 24 – 48 hours. 

Vientienne_Laos_John Kerry_Jan 2016 (archives)U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement on Monday during an official visit to Laos. Talks on Syria were scheduled to begin on January 25 based on the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2254 (2015) adopted on December 18, 2015.

On Friday UN Spokesman Ahmad Fawzi informed the press that the talks would be likely to be postponed for “practical reasons”. Kerry had reportedly agreed with UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, that talks could be started when “all pieces are lined up”. Kerry noted that it was better to delay the talks instead of having them break down from the start.

UNSC Resolution 2254 (2015) calls for the formation of a transitional Syrian government within six months after the launch of the talks. The transitional government shall, among others, be tasked with drafting a new constitution. Resolution 2254 envisages the holding of elections in Syria within some 18 months after the beginning of the talks. The Resolution also calls for an immediate ceasefire.

UNSC Resolution 2254 (2015) does not specifically mention Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and states that the Syrian people should decide the future of their country. President Bashar Al-Assad, his administration and Syrian Members of Parliament unanimously noted that the government is ready to launch the talks. Al-Assad had repeatedly stressed that his mandate comes from the Syrian electorate only, and that he was ready to step down when he does no longer have a popular mandate. Assad noted, however, that he is confident that he would stand a good chance in elections.

The Syrian government’s position with regard to the formation of a transitional government and the drafting of a new constitution is that neither President Al-Assad nor his administration have a constitutional mandate to form any government, let alone to adopt a new constitution, without attaining a mandate from the Syrian electorate.

It is noteworthy that the current constitution that defines Syria as a secular Arab Republic is one of, if not the most progressive constitutions within the Arab world. The constitution provides the right to form political parties, civil society and religious and other organizations. The constitution also affords special protection for ethnic, religious or other minorities and stresses gender equality.

The delay of the talks came after complaints from the High Negotiation Committee (HNC) of the grouping of “opposition groups”. The HNC demanded that it will not begin the talks until the government halts bombardments, lifts blockades and releases detainees in accordance withe the provisions of UNSC Resolution 2254 (2015). Members of these “opposition groups” including the remnants of the Free Syrian Army are, however, as much involved in sieges and in armed conflict as the Syrian Arab Army and Syrian National Self Defense Forces.

Syrian military operations and Syrian as well as Russian air operations are predominantly targeting the self-proclaimed Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL or Daesh), the Al-Qaeda linked Jabhat Al-Nusrah and allies, as well as Turkish “Turkmen” proxies in northern Syria. Calling on a nationwide ceasefire as a precondition before launching talks in Geneva is, according to most analysts unrealistic. Some analysts note that insisting on the ceasefire may aim at stalling the talks rather than at an actual ceasefire.

F/AK – nsnbc 25.01.2016

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