135,000+ killed, 9.5 million displaced, and still no end in sight.
The second round of multilateral negotiations to find a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis in Syria has failed to make significant headway as it wrapped up in Geneva today.
The stalemate is so entrenched that both sides left without agreeing on the order of conversation, and had not even begun to discuss any of the issues directly.
The two sides of the table are the government and the opposition. The government’s top priority is ending terrorism, which it defines as including all armed opposition. The opposition’s top priority is political-transition, as it wants a more inclusive and less genocidal regime to help Syrians achieve their goals.
Chief UN negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi attempted to achieve compromise on the format of discussion by proposing that ending terrorism be discussed the first day, and political transition be discussed the second day. However the government is adamant that the issue of ending terrorism and its complications be sorted out before political transition be discussed at all. Brahimi knows that although it will take more than one day to discuss either issue, it is important to the integrity of discussions and the opposition that both priorities begin to be aired out at the negotiating table.
President Bashar al-Assad ascended to power in 2000 after the 30 year rule of his father. His father, Hafez al-Assad organized the country along sectarian lines giving control of the security and military apparatus to his own Alawite community, though they comprise 13% of the country. The al-Assad regime supported the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and up till today Russia’s only warm-water naval facility operates in the Syrian city of Tartus on the Mediterranean coast. Russia continues to finance and equip the al-Assad regime even at this stage in the civil war.
The opposition, equipped and financed by the United States and its allies including Saudi Arabia, is the result of decades of hardship under a royalist government which denied full franchise and participation to the majority 60% Sunni community in the country. They were galvanized into action by the Arab Spring of 2011 and have continued to offer serious resistance and disruption to government operations in order to achieve their objectives.
However the opposition is on very uneven footing against the well equipped state forces, and US/allies reluctance to get involved militarily has created a new opportunity for al-Qaeda to step forward and gain support by deploying jihadist and suicide bomber assets against the government.
The meetings ended without a date being set for the third round of discussions.