Russia: Syrian Opposition Making Peace Effort Impossible
The recently appointed President of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main political group aligned with rebels fighting to overthrow the government of President Assad, has said that his organisation will not attend Geneva peace talks unless they make military gains first.
Ahmad Jarba told Reuters on Sunday that the SNC would not attend peace talks which Russia and the United States of America are jointly trying to organise. The Syrian opposition previously boycotted peace talks after the British government said that they would arm rebels if the talks failed (see Peace Talks Flounder Amidst Foreign Incitement). Something similar could be happening here, with the Syrian opposition refusing to engage in peace talks in the hope of pressuring their American and European allies into sending promise weaponry to rebels on the ground.
On Wednesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out to journalists at a press conference that:
“If you follow this logic, we will never manage to convene any conference.” In other words – the rebels seem to want to win first and talk peace after, when it would be pointless anyway.
The USA and Russia announced in May that they would attempt to bring the Syrian government and opposition together for peace talks in Geneva an unspecified time in the future.
“Our Western partners took responsibility for getting the opposition to attend the Geneva conference without preconditions,” Lavrov said. The refusal of the SNC to attend will be seen as an embarrassment for the US, but the Russian Foreign Minster poured cold water on the idea that breaking the current impasse in congress to send offensive weapons to rebels could prompt them to change their stance on the peace conference. “They are getting enough weapons of various kinds …and they are using these weapons actively,” he said.
Russia, which has given Assad crucial diplomatic support, has suggested that the main obstacles to the conference are disunity and a lack of commitment among the opposition.
Diplomats say recent successes by Assad’s forces have made him less likely to seek compromise off the battlefield, while also making his opponents reluctant to negotiate without first gaining a stronger position.
Lavrov said an impasse in the U.S. Congress over White House plans to send arms to Syrian rebels would have little effect on the opposition’s position on the proposed peace conference.
“They are getting enough weapons of various kinds …and they are using these weapons actively,” he said.