Vienna communiqué on Syria needs additions

Raed Omari
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For many observers, the outcome of the second Vienna conference on Syria was in favor of Russia’s stance because its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, was not condemned or even mentioned in the final communiqué.

Moscow has succeeded in framing the conflict in terms of terrorism, as embodied by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The heavy Russian presence on the ground in Syria has also given Moscow a greater say in the war, as the manager rather than just a key player.

The Vienna talks agreed that a gradual political process is the only way to resolve the conflict. This framework puts an end to talk of training and arming Syrian rebels, and makes the regime immune to military action against it.

Omissions

Assad’s fate is still the central issue. Including him in any transition is a nightmare scenario for most Syrians, who have paid such a high price in blood. The Vienna communiqué could have been well-received by the Syrian opposition if it was worded to stipulate at least a face-saving formula for Assad’s departure.

A supplementary attachment to the Vienna communiqué, detailing Assad’s fate and opposition representatives, would add more realism to diplomatic efforts

Raed Omari

The communiqué has also not made clear which opposition groups will negotiate and cooperate with the regime. The West has not done enough to enable a fully-fledged Syrian opposition to rival the Russian-backed regime, not only militarily but politically as well. This is not helped by the fractious nature of the opposition both inside and outside Syria.

Except perhaps for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), all other armed opposition forces on the ground might be deprived of a presence at the negotiating table. They are waiting to see if they will be blacklisted in a list of terror groups that will be made and then approved by the U.N. Security Council. Apart from the FSA, there are other moderate parties active on the ground, and if they are not well-represented at peace talks, they may have no reason to abide by a ceasefire.

A lot still needs to be done to push for an end to Syria’s war. A supplementary attachment to the Vienna communiqué, detailing Assad’s fate and opposition representatives, would add more realism to diplomatic efforts.

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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 English. He can be reached via [email protected], 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.
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