Faced with intense pressure from Western nations, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the nation’s self-proclaimed “government-in-exile,” has finally agreed to send a delegation to this week’s Geneva 2 peace talks. The delegation is said to include “representation” from several smaller rebel factions.
The SNC are the first rebel-linked group to agree to attend Geneva 2, and by all accounts are going to be the only one, with the much larger Islamic Front rejecting the talks as a “hollow” process.
The Islamic Front would’ve been a much more meaningful addition to the talks, as the largest rebel faction that isn’t formally part of al-Qaeda (though their informal links are becoming more public).
Several Western nations have been courting the Islamic Front as a potential replacement for the SNC’s fighting force, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has lost much of its territory and is quickly becoming irrelevant on the ground. Neither of the major al-Qaeda factions was invited to the talks.
Early last week, US officials indicated Geneva 2 might seek some regional ceasefires, especially in Aleppo, but after the Syrian government openly endorsed the idea Secretary of State John Kerry changed positions, and is now vowing that the conference will end with an agreement on regime change.
The Geneva 2 talks were initially announced for June of last year, but were repeatedly delayed over lack of rebel interest. The conference begins later this week in Montreaux.