While both the Syrian government and some rebels have agreed to attend this week’s talks in Geneva, they are both going into those talks with wildly different expectations for what they want to happen, and that’s got the Syrian government warning the talks need to start slow.
Russia had long envisioned the talks as a way to unify the rebels and government to fight ISIS, and had called for a new constitution and free elections. The rebels, on the other hand, are demanding the immediate ouster of President Assad, which the Syrian government is calling a “red line.”
The rebels condemned the “red line” comment, saying they demand the formation of a “transitional governing body,” which they of course expect to be dominated by the rebels and include only a token remnant of the old government.
Neither side has expressed much interest in making a deal lately, with the rebels still expecting an eventual installation by the international community, and the government is seeing limited value in allying with rebels who hold little territory. At the same time, the ceasefire between the two is holding, which serves as a good start to talking.
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