The latest round of talks aiming to resolve the crisis in Syria collapsed this weekend with the United Nations (UN) mediator apologizing for the failure, and President Bashar Al-Assad naming the rebel negotiators as “terrorists.” This was the second round of negotiations attempting to bring an end to the nearly four-year long civil war in Syria. Little progress was made throughout the entire negotiation as the Syrian government continued to raise concerns about terrorists among the rebel forces, and the rebel delegation focused solely on the establishment of a transitional government. This emphasis on terrorism by the Assad regime could be seen as the talks broke off as the Syrian government added the rebel delegates to its “terrorist list.”
A Syrian opposition group obtained a memo from the Syrian Justice Ministry naming the members of the delegation terrorists and, in accordance with an anti-terrorism law passed in 2012, seized all the assets of the delegates. This included confiscating their homes as well as freezing known bank accounts. As one delegate was informed of the seizure of her home, she shed a single tear and then resolved to continue fighting for a free Syria. While the timing of the release of the memo corresponded with the collapse of the talks, a Syrian government official noted that the decision to place the delegates on the terrorist list had occurred nearly two months ago.
This has been the tactic that the Assad regime has concentrated on in terms of defining the civil war in Syria. The Syrian government always connects the rebel forces to terrorists and uses the guise of combatting terrorism to justify continuing the war. As has been noted in the past, there are some connections between Syrian rebel groups and known international terrorist organizations. This is just one reason the talks to resolve the Syrian crisis collapsed as the rebel delegates were named terrorists and the UN apologized.
Chief UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he was “very, very sorry” and that the talks “had not come out with very much.” He noted that the ongoing failure was a tragedy for the people of Syria and that they were the ones that would continue to suffer due to the failures of the international community. It was not just differences between the Assad regime and rebels that led to the breakdown of the talks. The United States and Russia were also at odds in terms of the goal and direction of the talks, which made it difficult to leverage U.S. influence against the Syrian government.
This led to criticism by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) who declared that negotiations would not put sufficient pressure on Assad so long as he is “protected” by Russia. McCain went on to say that the situation in Syria is continuing to deteriorate and that attacks on civilians were escalating. He called for a “change in the balance of power” in Syria, but not a full-scale commitment of U.S. troops. He was not clear on how that change in balance could be achieved, but he was not advocating for an invasion.
A third round of negotiations is supposed to take place at a future date, but no timetable has been established. The most recent round of talks on Syria has collapsed with Assad naming the rebel delegates terrorists and the UN apologizing for the failure.
By Christopher V. Spencer