If on the other hand the goal of the hosting countries is to end the diplomatic isolation of Russia and Egypt, it will again not provide positive results for these two countries.
A few weeks ago the Russian and Egyptian governments launched similar initiatives regarding the conflict in Syria and organized meetings in their capitals by inviting some members of the Syrian opposition. They were, especially in Cairo, very selective in terms of their invitees and tried to portray the meeting as the meeting of moderates. The most representative groups of the Syrian opposition were not there and it is still not clear what the main goals of these meetings were. It is probably not a coincidence that these meetings took place one after another, considering the Syrian issue became one of the topics on the agenda of the meetings between President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt and Russian President Vladimir Putin during Putin’s visit to Cairo last week.
There is less data, outcome and more debate, speculation about the meetings. Of course it is always welcome for conflicting parties to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve disputes by negotiating under normal circumstances. However, when these talks constantly turn into futile attempts and conflict resolution exercises with known outcomes instead of contributing to the resolution they become an opportunity for the regime to continue its atrocities. In terms of its impact so far these meetings seem to present similar outcomes for the conflicts.
This was not the first instance in which different groups come together to debate the conflict in Syria. For the last four years there were numerous attempts to bring together different groups and mediate the dispute between the regime and opposition groups through meetings. The Geneva process specifically aimed to resolve the problem through these means, but it failed to bring an end to the conflict. So neither Cairo nor Moscow is conducting a new and innovative intervention to the conflict. So far, the main problem in the conflict was not the lack of opportunity to talk about the disputes, but instead, too much talking and a lack of action. The emphasis by Syrian President Bashar Assad in his last two interviews about the necessity of negotiations was in part due to his belief that nothing will come out from these meetings.
Another major issue is the debates about the motivations of the hosting states in organizing these meetings. If the goal of the organizing states is to convince the members of opposition groups about a solution that will include Assad, it seems very unrealistic. After so many atrocities it would be almost a slap to the face of the opposition as well as the international community to force them to accept the legitimacy of the regime. Hypothetically speaking, even if some representatives of the opposition accept such a solution, it would be almost impossible for them to persuade the people that they represent under these circumstances. More significantly, even if the parties reached an agreement it will be almost impossible to assume that the regime under Assad will be inclusive and democratic. After such an agreement the regime will most probably keep its repressive mechanisms and measures and continue committing crimes against humanity while increasing its oppressive nature in order to prevent any future people’s movements in the country.
If on the other hand the goal of the hosting countries is to end the diplomatic isolation of Russia and Egypt, it will again not provide positive results for these two countries. While committing a major breach of international norms it will be unrealistic to expect Russia to gain credibility or soft power by such an endeavor. Furthermore, the Egyptian government under current circumstances seems very far away from providing assistance to Syrians for the formation of a democratic and inclusive government that will represent Syrians from different walks of life. Especially when it is cracking down on any type of opposition in its own country, it would be difficult to fix its image and present itself as the leader of the Arab world for the Egyptian regime.
This article was originally published in the Daily Sabah on February 23, 2015.