The latest round of Syrian peace talks began today in Geneva, with UN officials saying there is no plan for the government and rebels to actually meet face-to-face at all during the talks, with the UN simply ferrying messages back and forth.
The talks come amid an ongoing ceasefire, with UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura warning ominously that the only plan B is to return to war, “and to an even worse war than we had so far.” Still, the talks appear to be an uphill battle.
That’s because the rebels are demanding an immediate ouster of President Bashar Assad and the installation of a “transitional government,” which they of course intend to dominate. Syrian government officials have urged the talks to go slow, and deal with other issues, saying Assad’s ouster is a “red line.”
The Russian proposed plan which formed the basis for the talks was to unify government and rebels, pen a new constitution, and hold free elections. The rebels have so far expressed an aversion to that plan unless they are guaranteed that Assad, and potential other top officials, are barred from taking part in the vote.