The talks in Geneva scheduled for this Thursday will take quite a different turn than what was originally thought.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Riyadh over the weekend to meet with Riad Hijab, chairman of the Higher Negotiations Committee, who has been given the duty of selecting the delegation to Geneva by the Syrian Opposition.
As Gulf News reports, Kerry released a “Russian ultimatum” to the Syrian opposition heavily financed and endorsed by the Saudi government.
Apparently, Kerry has capitulated in his decision and has now been convinced by his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Lavrov has stated that groups such as Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are terrorist groups. Kerry has since said that the opposition will not take control of Damascus but are in the process of setting up a cabinet of national unity.
Furthermore, according to this deal, Assad will be allowed to run for office again in 2017.
Much to the dismay of Hijab and the opposition, this breaks from Geneva I in 2012 that called on the creation of a Transitional Government Body to replace President Assad. This was one of the cherished victories of the opposition in the prior peace talk. The new meeting will not include such a measure.
Three names have been replaced in the Geneva delegation list as per Lavrov’s recommendation: Saleh Al Muslim of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, ex-Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil, and human rights lawyer Haitham Manaa.
The concurrence of Washington and Moscow on this matter is quite a surprise after the developments of the past few months.