Geneva II, another test for Kerry’s diplomacy

The Syria peace conference was a big achievement in itself after a time many observers were casting doubts over its possibility of happening

Raed Omari

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With the much-heralded Geneva II peace conference on Syria held at last, one can just wait and see how the U.S. will cling to diplomacy can push for an end to Syria's nearly three-year conflict.

As opposed to the gloomy and always frustrating mood prevailing a talk and even a writing endeavor about Syria – all of course due to the uncertainty, vagueness and decisiveness which have long engulfed the Syrian crisis since its very outbreak in March 2011 – there emerged a relatively comfortable atmosphere on the war-torn country having its crisis finally tackled at a high-profile world gathering.

In fact, holding the Geneva II conference was a big achievement in itself after a time many observers were casting doubts over the possibility of convening the long-awaited peace conference. Many others, myself included, have been raising concerns about the peace negotiations between the Syrian regime and the opposition ending up in just talks for the sake of talking.

Again, such gloominess was the direct outcome of the U.S.-led international community’s inaction on Syria’s ongoing war which has claimed the lives of more than 130,000 people and driven million others from their homes as refugees inside their country and outside in neighboring states.

A political solution to Syria’s unrest, which began on March 15, 2011 and has been declared as the 21st century's worst crisis, can be hoped to enter a decisive phase this week in Montreux, Switzerland. Better late than never anyway.


What is undeniable is that the conference has been preceded by a set of principles and protocols which have been established during the build-up to the peace talks, mainly by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, all make someone observing the Syrian crisis move from the conventional long-held pessimism to “cautious optimism” towards the outcomes of the conference. Russia’s consent and silence have played a considerable role in such emerging optimism.

The international community has provided the Syrian people with no third choice

Raed Omari

Or to put it this way, the international community has provided the Syrian people with no third choice – it is either resorting to armed struggle or pinning hopes in the conference to end the war. This is to explain why “cautious optimism” is the least needed now.

In fact, this mixed feeling of pessimism and optimism on the conference was best expressed by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s speech during Wednesday’s opening session when he said, “Today is day of fragile but real hope.”

Anyway, one of those validating principles that can ensure sustainability to the peace talks and their outcomes is the assertion that Geneva II conference is to be on the communiqué agreed at the first international Geneva gathering on Syria in June 2012, stipulating the setting up of a transitional government in Syria.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s withdrawal of his invitation to Iran, the Damascus regime’s main regional ally, for Tehran’s refusal to consent to a transitional government in Syria is a proof of the irreversibility of the previous Geneva Communiqué. It is also an indication of Kerry’s regaining the upper hand in the Syrian struggle.


Another aspect suggesting the validity and seriousness of the peace conference is the talk about a ceasefire in Syria, even a localized ceasefire beginning with Aleppo, to secure unrestricted access to humanitarian aid throughout Syria than can alleviate the large-scale suffering of the Syrian people.

Though a truce has not been reached and only was hoped to be agreed prior to the conference, it is an indication that the world powers have begun dealing with the Syrian crisis from a humanitarian point of view and not solely from a political perspective. The ceasefire can be reached while the conference is on anyway or shortly afterwards.

However, Syria moving from speculation and uncertainty to affirmation and decisiveness is no doubt to be decided during the conference and is so much linked to Kerry’s relentless diplomacy and his ability to push for a “convincing and sustainable” political solution to the Syrian crisis seemingly after reaching certain agreements with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

It is actually hard to separate Lavrov’s hailing of a transitional government in Syria without any reiteration of Russia’s stubborn stance on the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and not even that much insistence on Tehran’s attendance of the talks – as it was the case during the 2012 Geneva conference – from an agreement reached with Kerry of some kind. That was a worth-noting stance.

Strongly-worded assertion

Kerry’s strongly-worded assertion of the absence of Assad in a transitional government or in any political solution in Syria is on the other hand an indication of the American top diplomat gaining the upper hand in the Syrian struggle after a considerable time of having it shared with the Russians.

As a matter of fact, the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) fight against the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has been a turning point in the course of action in and on Syria. In part, it helped the Western-backed FSA regain its image as a moderate and reliable Syrian army that can be trusted during any transitional period in Syria and, on the other hand, it has had an undeniable impact on annulling the Syrian regime’s cause as fighting terror as once and still being claimed.

Remarkably enough, the radical Jabhat al-Nusra has been reported to be fighting the ISIS alongside the FSA.

With this scene now in Syria, Kerry’s political maneuvering can be said to receive a big boost, as there is no point to keep being embarrassed over supporting the FSA that is now engaged in the global war against terror which his country declared in 2001.

In one way or another, Russia, which has long linked its support to the Syrian regime with the latter’s fight against terrorism is requested now to revisit its calculations and stop labeling the FSA as a terrorist group. Moscow’s whole conceptualization of terrorism in Syria needs to be revisited.

Again, Geneva II can be a step forward towards ending the Syrian crisis and providing a sustainable political solution to the ongoing war there only if the large-scale humanitarian suffering is perceived with “enough is enough.” It is the world powers’ moral responsibility.

All in all, Kerry’s ability to help Syria’s opposing powers reach a deal is in another test resembling that of his endeavor in pushing for a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya News. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.