So far, the peace talks in Geneva have started with an atmosphere filled with tension. It took three long years before efforts to bring Syrians to the negotiating table proved successful. However, it was less than 60 minutes for animosity and a harsh demeanor to rule the day as diplomats argued and fought at the beginning of the peace talks held yesterday in Switzerland.
Walid al-Muallem, foreign minister of Syria, said that the revolt against his administration was made up of nothing but terrorist sent by the opposition to do him harm. He told delegates from the opposition that they were acting as traitors to the people of Syria and in fact said, they were on the payroll of the enemy.
At one point during the day, al-Muallem began arguing with Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations. The argument centered around the time limit rule on speeches. Al-Muallem simply refused to comply saying that the people of Syria had the right to have their version of the events told.
In reponse, opposition head Ahmed al-Jarba of the Syrian National Coalition, accused the current Syrian government of committing barbaric acts the like of which have not occurred in Europe since the second World War. He said that justice must be served for those crimes.
Fights even broke outside the negotiating area when a small pro-Assad rally was almost broken up by a group of anti-Assad Syrians.
The talks have been planned since the United Nations Security Council agreed a year and a half ago to a document proposing a transitional government as a possible resolution for the country’s gridlock. In the intermediate period, over 100,000 individuals have perished and Syria has divided into rival strongholds for either the ruling regime, the al-Qaeda of Iraq and the Free Syrian Army.
Not many actually expect the tension filled peace talks to result in a breakthrough. The opposition says that no real progress can happen unless the Assad agrees to stand down. This idea was backed by United States Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry said that in reality, Bashar al-Assad could not be part of a transition governing body. He said it was impossible for the man who has brutalized his own people to legitimately be expected to govern.
It was Kerry’s statements that led to a furious response from al-Muallem. The response went way over the required time limit which led to the disagreement with the Secretary-General.
Al-Muallem spent the majority of his long, eloquent speech at the beginning of the peace talks railing against different states using what he called “petrodollars” to export Islamic terrorism. He also attacked Turkey for opening its borders with Syria to opposition groups.
The meetings are now expected to relocate to Geneva where the envoy for both the United Nations and the Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, will officiate over talks that will begin with discussing local level ceasefires and access to humanitarian groups. However, delegates from the opposition have expressed doubt that either side would even be seated in the same room. Still, there were other delegates who admitted that if both points of view were under one roof, it could result in a mood change for all those in attendance.
In spite of the tension filled start of the peace talks, Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari felt that he saw signs of possible compromise behind all the tough talk. Zebari had talked to both delegations earlier in the day.
By Rick Hope