With Secretary of State John Kerry insisting the only goal of the Geneva II peace talks, which began today, is to establish a new “transitional” government for Syria, it is less and less clear why Syria’s current government was even invited.
It certainly wasn’t to hear them speak, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeatedly interrupted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem’s opening remarks, mostly to complaining that he was taking too much time and making “inflammatory” comments.
Moallem’s comments centered around concerns about the rise of al-Qaeda dominated rebels in Syria’s north, and warnings to Turkey and other nations to stop backing such factions on the ground.
All that seemed very much beside the point to officials at the talks, however, and once Moallem was finally finished, the speeches continued, with little talk of even hazarding an attempt at stopping any of the fighting on the ground.
That’s not surprising, of course, as materially none of the rebel fighters were represented at the talks. The lone “rebel” faction, the opposition Syrian National Coalition, is hoping to get things over as soon as possible and get themselves appointed Syria’s new “governing body.”
Much of Syria’s confusion about the talks appears to be time-sensitive, as Moallem’s speech seemed built around last week’s comments by Kerry and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, talking up partial ceasefires and humanitarian corridors. All of that was endorsed by the Assad government and therefore immediately condemned by Kerry, who now sees efforts to stop the fighting as a “distraction” from the true purpose of the peace talks, installing a more pro-US regime.