The fourth round of talks on the Syrian conflict in Geneva ended with the modest hope that the two sides to the conflict realize that dialogue is the only viable option left to settle the six-year old conflict, which left nearly half-a-million people dead, hundreds of thousands injured and no less than 11 million Syrians either displaced or refugees.
UN mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Friday, at the end of the talks, that he “had a feeling that the sides want to find a dialogue. That is what matters”.
Leading Syrian government negotiator at the Geneva talks Bashar Al Jaafari conceded that no breakthrough was reached during the recent peace negotiations and that “the only thing” achieved at the end of the 10 days of talks was an agreement on the agenda for the next round of talks between Damascus and the Syrian Higher Negotiating Committee, the main opposition umbrella.
He also said that the government wants a unified opposition delegation as its negotiating partner.
De Mistura convened the talks with the goal of tackling UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which lays the basis for a political transition based on three “baskets”: accountable governance, a new constitution and UN-supervised elections.
The government delegation asked that a fourth “basket” that would focus entirely on anti-terrorism be included in the talks agenda before it agrees to continue negotiations, a request the opposition appears hesitant to accept for fear that the government would use it to sideline discussions on political transition, its central goal.
The UN envoy seemed upbeat. He declared that the participants in the talks were going home with a clear agenda for future negotiations, but acknowledged that they alone can make things happen.
“The train is ready, is in the station, is warming up its engine, everything is ready and it just needs an accelerator. And the accelerator is in the hands of those who were attending this round,” de Mistura told reporters Friday night.
For the time being, it is obvious that Syria’s fate is in the hands of the two sides at the negotiation table.
When the dust finally settles in the country, its future will be decided by the Syrian people who must be given the opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination freely.
Regional and international powers, all with vested interests, should abstain from playing out their fantasies vis-à-vis this old country and accept that only the Syrian people can decide its future.