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article imageOp-Ed: Free Syrian Army refuses to commit to ceasefire during Geneva 2

By Ken Hanly     Nov 26, 2013 in Politics
The Geneva 2 peace conference on Syria is set to meet on January 22. The western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) leader, General Salim Idriss said that he would not agree to a ceasefire during the talks.
Whether the conference goes ahead or not the General said he would continue the fight to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The FSA refusal to agree to a cease fire is just one of many problems facing the upcoming meeting. The UN announced that the goal of the talks was an agreement for a transitional government that would end the conflict. Idriss told Al Jazzera: "Conditions are not suitable for running the Geneva II talks at the given date and we, as a military and revolutionary force, will not participate in the conference, We will not stop combat at all during the Geneva conference or after it, and what concerns us is getting needed weapons for our fighters."
My understanding is that only political groups are participating in any event so that FSA would be represented by the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). The FSA is losing influence even on the ground as Islamist groups have formed their own Islamic Front. Aside the Front there are also several Al-Qaeda linked groups.
Assad said that he would send delegates to the talks but would accept no preconditions. He also said he would put any agreement to a referendum. Opposition leaders say the vote would be stacked against them. The main western-backed umbrella opposition group the SNC has not yet made a final decision on attending the conference according to Ahmad al-Jarba head of the group. He said :"We think that the Syrian regime is the one which doesn't want to go to Geneva II, but the Russians are putting pressure on them to attend," This seems a move to put the blame on any failure to meet on the Assad regime.
A spokesperson for the coalition Khaled Saleh said the group would meet on December 15 to decide whether to attend the talks. The group is demanding that Assad meet demands for humanitarian aid corridors and the release of political prisoners. It is not clear whether Iran will be invited to the talks. Iran supports the Assad regime. The Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said: "Participation of Iran in Geneva 2 is in our view an important contribution to the resolution of the problem. We have said all along that if Iran is invited, we will participate without any preconditions,"
However, the Syrian National Council has listed a number of preconditions including an understanding that Assad will not be part of any transitional government. The US and the opposition both interpret the Geneva Communique as implying this but that is not how the Assad regime looks at the matter.
After two days of talks in Istanbul the SNC agreed to participate in the planned conference, however: "The Istanbul statement also called for the enacting of confidence-building "steps" outlined by the coalition after the Friends of Syria in London on 22 October. These included establishing safe corridors for deliveries of humanitarian aid, rejecting Iran from the peace process, increasing military support for rebel forces, and making any agreement binding under Chapter VII of the UN Charter."
It is unlikely that the Assad regime will agree to all of these demands. The meeting should take place without preconditions. The demands can be part of the negotiations. Even if an agreement does take place there is no guarantee that rebel forces on the ground will agree to them. This is particularly true of groups that are not part of the FSA. However, even the FSA rejects the idea of a ceasefire during the negotiations. While neither side at this point seems capable of a military victory neither is willing to negotiate given the present balance of power especially the rebels.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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