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Challenge at Geneva talks

Jan 22,2014 - Last updated at Jan 22,2014

The international conference for a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis, convening in Geneva, raises great expectations that the bloody civil war in Syria might finally reach an end.

However, there is little hope that this objective is possible or reachable in a short time.

The two conflicting parties represented at the conference have different conceptions and interpretations of the contents of Geneva I.

The Syrian regime still refuses to recognise the outside opposition as a legitimate partner for talks, insisting that the internal opposition loyal to the regime is the right opposition.

The Assad regime announced beforehand that it would never give authority to a transitional government or accept the participation of the leaders of the opposition abroad in a transitional government.

The opposition, on the other hand, insists that President Bashar Assad and his aides cannot stay in power in any future arrangement.

Bridging this gap could be the great challenge facing the Geneva II conference.

The Syrian crisis is not only a fight between two Syrian parties; it is a sectarian, religious struggle that divides the entire region and extends to Iraq, Lebanon, and threatens other countries in the region.

Its origin lies in the political and sectarian struggle between the Iranian Shiite regime and the Sunni countries around.

Syria, since 1979 and the Iran-Iraq war, shifted its alliance from the Arab world to the Iranian religious regime, fighting against Iraq at the time and giving military help to the Khomeini regime against Baath Party members in Iraq.

Iran is an active military player and supporter of the Syrian regime. The Syrian opposition considers Iran an opponent, not a mediator.

The United States and the United Nations considered that Iran’s participation after the dramatic change in its relations with the US and the recent agreement to solve the differences concerning the Iranian nuclear project might bring an objective Iranian stand that could help solve the Syrian crisis.

Iran did not participate in Geneva I and, therefore, refuses to respect its contents. It clearly refuses any change in Syria that excludes Assad.

In fact, Iran refuses any solution giving authority to Sunni groups or any other groups opposing Iran’s policies in Syria or the region.

Excluding Iran from the Geneva II conference might complicate the crisis and lead to a tougher stand by the Syrian regime.

It might weaken the possibility of US and Russia reaching consensus.

On the other hand, Iran’s participation without commitment to the conditions of Geneva I might strengthen the stand of the Syrian regime who is already misinterpreting the contents of Geneva I.

It is a very tough and challenging mission for the international diplomacy.

If it fails, it might lead to struggle in other areas in the Middle East, and possibly in other parts of the world. If it succeeds, it might bring about a new world order and consensus on other hot issues in the world.

Unless an international scenario is adopted and imposed on all conflicting parties, the crisis cannot be solved.

A solution should guarantee the right of all different political, sectarian and ethnic groups in Syria to be represented in a new political system run democratically, without exclusion of any political group.

Reconciliation should seal the final peaceful agreement not only among the Syrian, but also among the conflicting states in the region, particularly Iran and the Arab states.

The writer is former minister of information and media expert. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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