Photo courtesy of Freedom House via Flickr.

Second Round Of Syrian Peace Talks Under Way in Geneva

The peace negotiations that began in Montreux, Switzerland on Jan. 22, 2014, was the first time the Syrian government and opposition met in almost three years.

Update 2/10/2014:

A second round of Syrian peace talks resumed in Geneva today, but were off to a rough start as both sides blamed each other for recent violence, the Associated Press reported.

No major agreements were reached after the first round of tense, and at times even hostile talks, the BBC reported.

A local ceasefire in Homs, agreed to during the week-long talks that began on Jan. 22,  allowed more than 300 civilians to escape the embattled city, according to the Syrian Red Crescent.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has accused the Syrian government of delaying the destruction of the country’s chemical weapons (the plans for which we detailed here).

The conflict, which began after the government violently suppressed protesters, has left more 130,000 dead and millions displaced.

Talks were based on the so-called Geneva Communique (pdf), an international agreement that calls for an immediate ceasefire and the transfer of power to a transitional government that will implement democracy.

This document was signed by the League of Arab States, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, and Qatar – but notably absent are both the current Syrian government and Iran, Syria’s staunchest ally.

President Assad’s government has agreed to attend the upcoming Geneva II talks but has stated that Assad stepping down is out of the question.

Meanwhile, the opposition, represented by the Syrian National Coalition, have stated that Assad should not have any role in the transitional government.

Also, several rebel groups, including the Al-Queda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, have stated to Al Jazeera that they will not be bound by any agreement made at the conference.

So the talks seem to have slim chances of succeeding in its stated goal of peace and democracy.

However, for the Syria and its allies, just attending the talks could serve the purpose of legitimizing its current government.

As for the opposition and the U.S., negotiations could open aid corridors – and potentially spread dissent among moderates in the Syrian government, according to the New York Times.

Ole Skaar