upcoming Geneva talks, slated for Thursday, is expected to be a
catastrophe for Syria’s opposition. The talks, which were supposed
to take place today, were delayed due to last-minute diplomatic
Secretary of State John Kerry who was in Riyadh over the weekend met
with Riad Hijab, a senior figure in the Syrian opposition and former
Prime Minister, as well as senior Gulf officials.
the time, the US issued a vague statement saying that Saudi Arabia
and the US had reached an “unspecified understanding” on Syria.
speaking to Gulf News, who declined to be named due to the
sensitivity of the issue, say that Kerry delivered a Russian
ultimatum to the Saudi-backed Syrian opposition.
who was named chairman of the Higher Negotiations Committee, was
responsible for putting together a 15-person delegation for Geneva.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, vetoed the list saying
participation of groups such as Jaish Al Islam and Ahrar Al Sham
would not be accepted.
argues that these Saudi-backed groups are “terrorists”.
was apparently “won over” by his Russian counterpart during their
meeting in Zurich, ahead of the GCC talks.
to sources, Kerry told Hijab that the opposition was going to Geneva
III to negotiate the creation of a cabinet of national unity between
them and the Syrian regime.
opposition would not take over power in Damascus, the sources said,
as participating parties set no date for President Bashar Al Assad’s
according to the US-Russia agreement, Al Assad would be entitled to
run for a new term in the summer of 2017.
reportedly expressed deep “concern and surprise” at what he heard
from Kerry. This was a dramatic departure for the US and a major
shift in the fortunes of the Syrian Opposition.
no doubt, it is a major victory for Damascus and Moscow.
opposition, after all, was expecting Geneva III to sign off on what
was agreed upon at Geneva I in the summer of 2012, basically, a
Transitional Government Body (TGB) that takes over full-powers from
Al Assad and replaces him at the Presidential Palace in Damascus.
to both Kerry and Lavrov, this won’t happen anymore but what the
negotiations will produce is a cabinet of national unity between the
opposition and Syrian officialdom, along with free parliamentary
elections and a new constitution.
if these harsh realities were not enough, Kerry also bent to Russian
pressure and agreed to add the names of three Moscow-backed
opposition figures to the Syrian Opposition delegation. This had
previously been refused by Hijab and his team but they were forced to
accept under US pressure.
three names are Saleh Al Muslim of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party
(whose name had strongly been vetoed previously by the Turks),
ex-Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil, and human rights
lawyer Haitham Manaa.
three men were purposely ignored at the Riyadh Conference.
on the list of setbacks for the Syrian Opposition was a joint
US-Russian agreement that confidence building measures would take
place as a result of the talks in Geneva, and not as a pre-condition.
sides assured Damascus that no preconditions would be made before the
talks started this January.
opposition had said that they would boycott Geneva unless there was a
release of political prisoners, a halt to aerial bombardment of
rebel-held villages and stop to sieges.