العنوان هنا
Policy Analysis 27 March, 2014

Geneva Conference II: Challenges Faced in Syria and the Region

Keyword

The Unit for Political Studies

The Unit for Political Studies is the Center’s department dedicated to the study of the region’s most pressing current affairs. An integral and vital part of the ACRPS’ activities, it offers academically rigorous analysis on issues that are relevant and useful to the public, academics and policy-makers of the Arab region and beyond. The Unit for Policy Studies draws on the collaborative efforts of a number of scholars based within and outside the ACRPS. It produces three of the Center’s publication series: Situation Assessment, Policy Analysis, and Case Analysis reports. 


Introduction

Both sides to the conflict in Syria were invited by the UN to attend the Geneva II Conference on Syria, alongside the countries implicated in the crisis. The conference, a recommendation of   Geneva I, was delayed for months following disagreements over the future of President al-Assad and the manner in which the opposition would be represented. So far, the results of its two rounds (January 24-31 and February 10-15, 2014) have failed to produce any significant results. Within this context, this paper examines the political efforts to solve the Syrian crisis to date, and assesses the chances of success for this latest attempt represented by Geneva II. It also explores the motives behind each party's participation in the conference.


Previous Arab and International Initiatives

From the outset of the crisis, allies of the Syrian regime tried to mediate by urging rapid reforms.[1] There was, however, no outside initiative for a solution until the Arab League’s Secretary General, Nabil al-Arabi, visited Damascus for a second time on September 10, 2011, proposing the first Arab initiative as an integrated plan for a transition to a pluralistic democracy.[2] Although the regime did not respond to its efforts, the Arab League put forward a new proposal based on the same initiative on November 2, 2011, a solution based on dialogue between the regime and the opposition under Arab League oversight within a specific timeline.[3] The Syrian regime formally accepted this plan, but failed to adhere to its implementation. This took place following a number of meetings with the Arab Foreign Ministerial Committee during which the regime tried to stall the plan.[4] The opposition similarly showed little enthusiasm for it.

After the Arab observer mission at the end of December 2011 failed to prepare the ground for launching a political process in Syria, on January 22, 2012 the Arab League proposed its second initiative, which stipulated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should transfer his powers to his deputy. This was rejected outright by the Syrian regime, and resulted in the Arab League’s decision to hand its initiative over to the Security Council to enforce its decision.[5] Russia and China, however, used their veto to prevent a resolution.

On February 23, 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi announced the appointment of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan as joint special envoy to solve the Syrian crisis.[6] A six-point plan was put forward on March 16, 2012 that focused on earlier proposals by the Arab League, stipulating an end to all forms of armed violence under UN monitoring prior to the launch of the political process.[7] With the failure of this initiative, the Security Council sent a UN observer mission to Syria to oversee a ceasefire on both sides on April 14, 2012.[8] Even though the parties to the conflict had agreed to it, the mission failed to complete its task due to escalating violence. The mission of international observers was suspended on June 16, 2012.[9] Consequently, the international working group came to realize that the only way to stop the violence in Syria would be to start a political track. On June 30, 2012, the Geneva agreement was struck, stipulating, “the establishment of a transitional governing body that can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place. That means that the transitional governing body would exercise full executive powers. It could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.”[10] Disagreements between Russia and the US over the interpretation of the agreement with regards to the role played by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad prevented its implementation. Kofi Annan resigned from his role on August 2, 2012.[11] Former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi was appointed UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria on August 17, 2012, but found himself facing the same impasse.[12] He would have resigned were it not for the Lavrov-Kerry agreement of May 7, 2013, which specified the convening of a new international conference to solve the Syrian crisis on the basis of the Geneva I communiqué. When the time to convene Geneva II arrived, the conflict in Syria had become embedded as a ramifying local political conflict with regional and international dimensions.

*This Article was translated by the ACRPS Translation and English Editing Department. The original Arabic version published on February 16th, 2014 can be found here.

To read the full text , click on the image below. 


[1] In this context come the efforts exerted by Qatar and Turkey during the early months of the crisis. These came to naught due to the Syrian regime’s refusal to offer any concessions that might be taken as sign of weakness, particularly given that Egypt, Tunisia, and other examples were fresh in their mind.

[2] Nabil al-Arabi’s first visit was on July 13, 2011. See: “President Assad discusses developments in the region, unifying efforts and strengthening action to solve Arab issues with the Arab League Secretary-general,” Al-Thawra, July 14, 2011, http://thawra.alwehda.gov.sy/_archive.asp?FileName=29996479120110714022348.

[3] For details on the Arab initiative see Azmi Bishara, Syria: A Way of Suffering to Freedom: An Attempt in Current History (in Arabic), Beirut/Doha: ACRPS, 2013, pp. 446-50.

[4] “The Agreement between Syria and the Committee of Arab Foreign Ministers over the working plan,” Al-Thawra, November 3, 2011, http://thawra.alwehda.gov.sy/_archive.asp?FileName=96045087820111103024320. The initiative came on the heels of stiff US and EU sanctions against the regime, such as a ban on the purchase of Syrian oil and the withdrawal of their ambassadors from Damascus in addition to increasing Arab pressure on the regime to stop violence.

[5] “Syria rejects the decisions of the Arab Foreign Ministerial Committee outside the framework of the Arab working plan and protocol,” Al-Thawra, January 23, 2012, http://thawra.alwehda.gov.sy/_archive.asp?FileName=44871184620120123034325.

[6] “Timeline of UN efforts in Syria,” Al-Jazeera Net, July 15, 2012, http://www.aljazeera.net/news/pages/42aad4cd-532d-4f58-a741-285cfbeb2ce2.    

[7] Ibid.

[8] Mahmoud Hamdi Abu al-Qasim, “The Annan plan and the international diplomatic impasse in Syria,” Digital Al-Ahram, http://digital.ahram.org.eg/articles.aspx?Serial=949120&eid=1875.

[9] The Syrian regime agreed to the plan on March 27, 2012. See “Annan: A positive Syrian response … America: An important steps,” Al-Thawra, March 28, 2012,   http://thawra.alwehda.gov.sy/_archive.asp?FileName=27367281120120328002151. The Syrian National Council agreed to the plan at the Friends of Syria conference on March 30, 2012. “The Istanbul Conference backs the Annan Plan and demands a timetable,” Al-Quds Al-Arabi, April 1, 2012, http://goo.gl/t28AUq.

[10] “The Working Group on Syria holds its first meeting in Geneva,” UN News Center, June 30, 2012, http://www.un.org/arabic/news/story.asp?NewsID=16858. To read the full text of the Geneva I communiqué in Arabic, see: “The full official text of the Geneva communiqué,” Al-Mustaqbal, May 8, 2013, http://www.almustaqbal.com/storiesv4.aspx?storyid=570019. In English, see:

http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Syria/FinalCommuniqueActionGroupforSyria.pdf

[11] “America puts Annan’s resignation down to diplomatic failure on Syria,” (in Arabic) Reuters, August 2, 2012, http://ara.reuters.com/article/topNews/idARACAE8710FC20120802.   

[12] “Appointment of Brahimi as new envoy to Syria,” (in Arabic) Al-Jazeera Net, August 17, 2012, http://aljazeera.net/news/pages/7aec49c5-201b-46e0-95ec-9089f23e7de1.