A senior Arab diplomat who followed the Geneva II conference in its first days said that the current impasse was evident from the outset, and that the way out was clear to the conference’s broker, Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.
The diplomat, who left the Swiss city of Montreux two days after the conference opened on Jan. 22, told Al-Monitor that Brahimi was never deluded about the talks' prospects. Before the conference began, Brahimi had conducted many contacts with the Syrian forces involved as well as with the foreign powers sponsoring the conference and those supporting any of the parties to the Syrian conflict. So Brahimi went to Montreux fully aware of what awaited him. He knew that the two sides’ working papers didn’t intersect on any of the basic points.
The Syrian opposition is focused on a single point in the Geneva I communiqué: the formation of a transitional government with full executive powers. The Syrian opposition came to Switzerland in order to implement the practical steps to form such a government and work out a timeframe for it. Some in the opposition delegation even envisioned a one-year time table for the transfer of all powers, the writing of a new constitution and the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections. The diplomat heard some opposition members express confidence that President Bashar al-Assad will have no influence on the developments once his presidential term ends in June.
In contrast, the diplomat said, the official Syrian delegation had a completely different reading of the Geneva I communiqué. The regime representatives hold that to secure Syrian leadership for the peace process, the priority must be to stop outside interference and prevent the transfer of arms, ammunition and fighters to Syria — in other words, turn Geneva II into an international coalition against terrorism in Syria. After that, the Syrians will then decide the fate of their regime, policies and people. This means that the official delegation rejects Assad’s exclusion from a future solution.