As currently conceived, Geneva II — the diplomatic process aimed at
reaching a political settlement in Syria — is headed for near-certain failure.
Continued difficulty in setting a firm meeting date underscores a fundamental
obstacle: the Syrian protagonists — particularly the opposition — are not yet
ready to talk. Even if both sides come to the table, deep-rooted differences
over the purpose, structure, and conduct of the talks as well as a widening
rift between the political opposition and armed fighters, likely would lead to
the negotiation’s immediate unraveling — with dire consequences on the ground.
Instead, the United Nations should reconceive
the Geneva process by adding an interim phase — call it Geneva 1.5 — before
attempting to bring the Syrians to the table. Geneva 1.5 would center on a
multilateral conference assembling key international and regional actors to
address some of the most pressing issues feeding the conflict and to lay the
foundation for an eventual Syrian negotiation process.
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