While the Saudi-backed umbrella organization ‘High Negotiations Comittee’ (HNC) has decided to participate in the peace talks on Syria on the behalf of the Syrian opposition, several major groups such as Kurdish factions have been excluded due to ongoging Turkish pressure. Nevertheless, the UN peace envoy Steffan de Mistrura ensures that more parties are to join the negotiations shortly. However, a senior Western diplomat briefing the media proclaimed that the talks organized to end the five-year conflict in Syria were “a complete failure” before they had even begun.
This dire prediction is rather feasible as it seems highly unlikely that these embattled factions are willing to come to terms with each other anytime soon. Firstly, representatives of the Islamic State have not been invited as this self-proclaimed caliphate is widely accepted as a terrorist group. Secondly, Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) which is one of the most powerful opposition militias has also been excluded due to similar reasons as ISIS. Thirdly, neither the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) nor the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been invited despite enjoying US backing and controlling large swaths of northern Syria. Combined, these groups occupy close to half of Syrian lands – nevertheless, none of them will get their voice heard at the ongoing peace negations.
With the Geneva peace talks seemingly hampering themselves from the very beginning, the Russian Federation and Syrian Government also regard several groups from the Islamist HNC opposition as terrorist organisations; these includes prominent militias such as Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar ash-Sham. Furthermore, the Syrian opposition (HNC) does not recognize the legitimacy of the Syrian Government and is therefore unlikely to even negotiate with government officials.
Nevertheless, some optimistic United Nation representatives still have high hopes: “I have good reasons to believe that they (HNC) are actually considering that (i.e peace) very seriously. And therefore to be in a position to probably Sunday to actually start the discussions with them in order to be able to proceed with intra-Syrian talks,” said UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura.
However, with government troops advancing rapidly since September of 2015 across several provinces (Aleppo, Latakia, Daraa, Homs & Damascus) in Syria, this gives the Syrian Government little to no incentive to sue for an overall peace agreement or opt for any deal involving a transitional government.
While the Geneva peace talks are scheduled to last for the next 6 months, the war in Syria continues largely unaffected as it enters its fifth year with the overall Syrian death toll nearing 400,000.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Al-Masdar News.
Chris Tomson is a geopolitical and map making expert.
You can follow him on twitter: @TheDaneChris