Syrian election will hamper peace efforts, says UN
Opposition says it will not return to talks if Assad is re-elected
The Syrian parliament in session yesterday. The parliament’s speaker, Mohammad Jihad al-Laham, has announced presidential election for June 3rd.
The UN has castigated Damascus’s decision to hold Syria’s presidential election on June 3rd, arguing it would hamper efforts to achieve a negotiated end of the conflict. The opposition has said it would not return to talks if President Bashar al-Assad is re-elected.
Secretary general Ban Ki- moon and mediator Lakhdar Brahimi have said the election could “damage the political process and hamper the prospect for a political solution that the country so urgently needs”, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. “Such elections are incompatible with the letter and spirit” of the Geneva peace plan of June 30th, 2012.”
However, this plan was never a serious and viable option, a neutral source close to the negotiations told The Irish Times . He said the 2012 proposal to end the conflict (Geneva I) was predicated on the mistaken belief that tactical withdrawals by the Syrian army suggested the government was about to fall and that it would agree to a transitional authority that would assume power once Mr Assad stepped down. “The government was not going to fall,” argued the source. “The proposal was never a realistic option in 2012 or as the basis for this year’s talks [Geneva 11].”
Postponement of negotiations for 18 months to give the dysfunctional western-backed opposition a chance to form a credible delegation also provided the Syrian army with the time and opportunity to retake territory lost to insurgent factions in 2011 and 2012, strengthening the government’s hold on power.
Finally, groups considered moderate by the West have been ingested by radical fundamentalist factions linked to al-Qaeda, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, forcing western powers to reconsider backing these groups.
Therefore, the talks in Geneva in February this year were not expected to end violence and promote the transition to a democratic system of governance.
Instead, the Montreux opening conference attended by 41 delegations was used by the western powers to denounce the government while the UN-mediated negotiations were exploited by both sides to put their rival points of view.
“Geneva is kaput,” said the source and neither is there a Plan B.The Syrian government is not aware of a Plan B, deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said. His assertion was confirmed by presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban who said: “I don’t see any factors promoting a return to Geneva . . . If it is to be convened, we want to see a seriousness from all parties to pursue a political solution which we did not see last time.”
Support for war
She believes this will not happen as the US, France and Britain “want the war to continue”.
The ruling party’s daily, al-Baath , has proclaimed there will be no “Geneva III” but a conference attended by world and regional powers to discuss “terrorism” and how to get the “terrorists” (foreign jihadis) out of Syria. Russia and Syria are unlikely to negotiate with Riyadh’s man Ahmed Jarba, who heads the expatriate opposition coalition, the paper revealed.
After the presidential election, a new government, with six secondary posts reserved for the opposition, is set to be formed. This government’s main task will be to initiate reforms that could lead to the easing of sanctions.
Russia, angry over US and European involvement in Ukraine, is not expected to put pressure on the government to submit to western demands and is likely to boost the supply of arms to counter the flow of weapons and aid provided by the West and Arab Gulf countries to insurgents. Syrian officials believe the peace process will not resume until the Ukraine crisis is resolved.