Search For Keyword.

Opposition's bitter choices in Astana talks: analysis

 (Zaman Al Wasl)- Major differences can be observed in the planned peace talks in Kazakhstan's Astana between Turkey, Russia and Iran, the regional powers that most involved in Syria's proxy war.

This discord clearly indicates that the understanding which was drafted in Moscow triple declaration on December 20, 2016. The declaration cannot be considered a proposed solution map. One that is agreed upon by the three countries.

 It is closer to a neutralization of the disagreements and contradictions between these countries without agreeing on a shared vision for a solution. This contradiction perhaps appears in the stands in a bigger way in Iran stand from this operation.

Iran was forced to enter the operation due to the Russian influence factor, but also there is a fundamental and essential contradiction between the Turkish and Russian stands. This contradiction appears through a simple reading of the Russian and Turkish letters directed to the Security Council on December 29, 2016. The letters kept under the number S20161133. In these letters, the understanding of both countries of Astana shows as well as the objective of the operation.

In the text of the Russian letter, we read the following: “Seeking to prepare the necessary conditions to establish a direct political dialogue between all the conflicting parties in the Syrian Arab Republic and to limit violence and prevent fall of civilian victims and to give access to humanitarian aid without obstacles, the Russian Federation proposes in light of the Security Council resolution 2245 for 2015 anchoring a ceasefire regime all over Syria except for the fighting operations’ areas against terrorist groups: ISIS and al-Nusra Front.”

In this text, Russia defines that the objective of ceasefire is to establish the necessary conditions for a direct political dialogue between all the conflicting parties in Syria.
This means that Russia looks to the Syrian case from the perspective of civil conflict which means involvement of several parties in the conflict and Russia does not look at it as a political crisis between a regime and opposition. Hence, the Russian letter does not contain any reference to the legal references of the Syrian case in the United Nations. Indicating to the 2254 resolution in the text of the Russian letter was to talk about ceasefire and not the foundations of a political solutions.

The Russian objective of the operation is a direct political dialogue between the conflict parties to search for shared ground between them to decrease the violence and place a roadmap for a solution later on based on shared work between the conflict parties. It should be noted that the Russian letter did not mention Astana Conference in name, but it only talked about direct political dialogue which points to Astana Conference.

In the Turkish letter, we read the following: “Respect the ceasefire to achieve a real political transition on the basis of Geneva statement and Security Council resolution number 2254 in 2015. There is hope that regime and opposition will meet soon in Astana in presence of the guarantors to take solid steps towards reviving the political process led by the United Nations.”

In this text, Turkey sets the objective of anchoring the ceasefire and that is to start a political process to achieve a real political transition according to what is stated in Geneva Statement and resolution number 2254. The Turkish letter talks about two parties; the opposition and the regime and not conflict parties like what the Russians said.

The points of contradictions can be summarized in the following:

The Russian letter talk about a conflict between parties and not a political crisis between a regime and opposition whereas the Turkish letter talks about a political conflict between a regime and opposition.

The Russian letter does not talk about a political process, but a political dialogue between conflict parties whereas the Turkish letter talks about starting a political process considered a continuation for negotiations sponsored by the UN.

The Russian letter does not put a procedural framework for the proposed political dialogue; meaning the dialogue will be open without any reference framework of legal determinants whereas the Turkish letter puts a procedural framework and that is achieving a process for political transition and puts also legal determinants for it via Geneva Statement and resolution number 2254.

The Russian letter did mention Astana process particularly so it would not be forced to mention dialogue references in Astana whereas the Turkish letter talked that the objective of the ceasefire is to reach Astana process and it defined its framework.

By all that is mentioned, the opposition has to realize these contradictions between the stands of the two guarantors countries and that has many meanings in politics.

Most important of these meanings: Astana process is not agreed upon completely between the two countries neither in the reference framework nor in the legal determinants or objectives. So if the guarantors of the process do not agree, it means the process will fail and the objective from the process is not to reach a solution but the management of the crisis, decrease the violence by the two countries and for reasons that are particular to each one of them and do not relate to the whole situation in Syria.

Second: Key notes on the agreement to form delegates for Astana Conference:
The main factions which signed this agreement are the factions defeated in Aleppo, meaning that the core of the agreement is between a defeated and victorious. This truth should not be absent in the evaluation of the stand on the Astana process.

The main factions which signed the agreement are political from the same color and some Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions were included to give the agreement a more comprehensive dimension.

The factions which signed the agreement do not control more than 5% of the Syrian land and they are factions limited in a particular geographical area; mainly Aleppo and Idlib.

These notes should be taken into consideration in the evaluation of the results of this agreement. Practically speaking, we give a specific group of factions with a particular ideological orientation and especially Faylaq al-Sham which was given the right to form a political delegate to conduct a political dialogue with the regime. This will have major implications on the whole situation in Syria and will result in a considerable disruption now and in the future.

Third: The stands of regional countries and International powers from the agreement and Astana Conference:

The United States: The United States welcomed the efforts put to establish the ceasefire and it did not show any resistance or opposition to the convening of Astana Conference. But a search should be done about the truth of the American stand through its interests and not through the statement of media officials. In this context, The United States will not do anything to prevent Astana Conference.

Not because it approves of it, but because it knows in advance that Russia and Turkey cannot achieve a solution and that managing the crisis through Russia and Turkey will serve the American strategy which distances itself from direct involvement in the Syrian case and gives more space for regional countries to interfere. Consequently, The United States realizes that Astana Conference will not be able to draw a solution, but it will change the rules of the game and America is comfortable with that. The most important achievement of the Turkish-Russian understanding is separating the opposition between “moderate” and “extreme”. And this demand was an American constant demand but its achievement would have required a big military work like the one in Aleppo. The Russians in cooperation with the Turkish did what we call in politics a “dirty work” by destroying Aleppo city and let it fall. America will benefit from this without having had to put any moral, legal and political costs. That’s why The United States does not do anything to disable the Turkish-Russian understanding.

That does not mean that America accepts or is satisfied by this understanding or what resulted from it, but America is benefiting from its results and this does not need a careful account of the American stand from Astaneh operation and how much it will affect the course of solution in Syria and its legal reference represented in Geneva Statement and resolution number 2254. The United States in Trump time wants to violate this reference for solution in Syria, but it does not want to do that itself, and that’s why it let the Russians and Turks to do the destruction of the solution references represented in political transition according to Geneva Communique.

The European Union: The European Union does not have an independent vision from the United States regarding this although it realizes that solution in Syria cannot be done in isolation from Europe. The cost of the solution economically cannot be paid by Russia or Turkey and so any solution in Syria needs a European contribution so that minimum level of social, political, economic stability is achieved to have the solution working according to a correct procedure.

Saudi Arabia: Despite the ambiguity in the Saudi stand from Astana process, we can specify some indications on the real Saudi stand from Astana. These indications are related to the overall approach of Saudi Arabia to the regional issues. The most prominent note in this regard is the kingdom interest and involvement in the Syrian case has regressed to a great extent and that is what we witness through the Saudi diplomacy and even the absence of statements indicating the kingdom stand. But we can say that the kingdom now proceeds from three factors which make it restraint to a great extent. That’s why it retrieved to the traditional Saudi diplomacy which we can call “silent diplomacy” and that is the approach which prevailed in the time of Saud al-Faysal.

The three factors influencing the kingdom stand: the desire of Saudi in building an understanding with Turkey from which it can strengthen its stand towards Iran. In the triple conflict Arab-Turkish-Persian in the region, the kingdom prefers to line with Turkey in this historic moment and perhaps the visit of Saudi crown prince to Ankara had a big role in compromising the Turkish course and demands in Syria.

The second factor is that Saudi Arabic sees that Russian politics in Syria has to be confronted with the Iran politics and that Russian factor in Syria is an expelling factor in its nature to the Iranian factor.

The third factor is waiting to see a clear stand for Trump administration especially and that all derived indicators from Trump team statements indicate that the new administration might depend on other countries in the region not Saudi to implement its policies and strategies. All indicators point out to Egypt and hence the kingdom does not want to lose Turkey in the coming stage which will have the title of enhancing the Egyptian power in the region’s dossiers. This thing was picked up by the Russian diplomacy which called frankly and in more than one occasion to give Egypt a prominent role in the Syrian issue.

The United Nations: the declaration of UN special envoy to Syria Mr. Steffan de Mistura that he will not participate in Astana Conference is an indication that the UN does not want to form a coverage to Astana Conference and wants to keep the main course for the political process in Syria in the context of the United Nations.
Fourth: The influence of Astana process on the legal references for solution in Syria:

Some might think that Astana process might be an opportunity for solution or at least going there will not result in great losses, but the truth is the objective from Astana process is not to find a solution, but rearranging the fundamentals of a new solution that is not based on former legal references especially Geneva Statement and resolution number 2254. Without going into the dates of changing solution references in Syria, it has to be realized the process of changing solution references is going through two stages: the first is changing the solution parties and the second is to create a new reference after qualifying the new parties.

The UN cannot violate the solution references without rehabilitating a new party and we all saw this in the changing process which happened with 2118 resolution and Geneva reference to the resolution number 2254.

The resolution 2118 emerged in light of presence of National Coalition as a party that represents the opposition in the process of political solution. To avoid resolution number 2118, a new party had to be qualified and that is the Higher Committee for Negotiations and then issue resolution number 2254 which is considered the new reference for solution instead of resolution number 2118. Although the International Law does not acknowledge the copies of international resolutions, but what is agreed upon by law interpreters is what we call the accumulation effect of international resolution where a group of resolution support each other and are implemented according to the outcome of the accumulation effect to the group of international resolutions issued in one case.

What concerns us in this is that the main objective for Astana Conference is to qualify a new party in the solution. After making this party, the international organization can change the legal reference for solution and the qualification process has to start with excluding the Higher Committee for Negotiations and marginalize it to introduce the new party which Ankara and Moscow are working to produce. This is what Turkish-Russian understanding call it opposition, “armed opposition factions.”

Here lies the danger of Astana Conference. Practically, it means the end of the Higher Committee for Negotiations. Our holding into the Higher Committee does not emerge from keenness to preserve the committee as a representative entity, but our keenness on legal reference regulates the solution in Syria. The absence of the committee from the scene means we will go to another reference and not resolution number 2254 because practically speaking, resolution number 2254 cannot be implemented in the points related to political solution without the presence of the Higher Committee for Negotiations which make up the second party in the solution put by this resolution. The paragraphs of resolution 2254 include general commitments which will remain including what represents a special partnership between the opposition represented by the Higher Committee for Negotiations and the regime. The absence of the partner party means the end of these paragraphs practically speaking.

This truth should be in front of us mainly because if Astana Conference is to be convened, a new reference will emerge. All indicators point out that the foundation of this reference would be establishing a military council to solve security military issues in the first phase and later a roadmap will be put for political solution.

This means that the Syrian revolution will enter a new turn founded on the security problem and not the political root of the crisis in Syria. Unfortunately, the roadmap will not merge from the four points proposed by Iran in March 214 which were rejected by the Syrian opposition and regional countries.

 It seems that Iran was able to convince Russia in adopting this initiative based on an idea of military council leading the army in which Alwaites are likely to make decisions and a mutual government headed by a Sunni moderate figure. Then a new constitution will be placed stating frankly on protection of religious minorities and then legislative and presidential elections will take place where Bashar al-Assad has the right to participate. The danger of this initiative lies in it meaning a complete victory for the Iranian project in Syria and the region especially that Turkey is busy with its security burdens and now it’s closer to Iranian propositions.

Fifth: The options of the Higher Committee for Negotiations in confronting Astana Conference:

The first and best options is the conference not being convened and this option might be impossible in light of the Turkish impulsive in convening this conference and also because of the loose Arab stand regarding Astana Conference.
The second option: leaving the factions which signed the agreement to go alone and perhaps some might say this is a bad option and that Russians might single out these factions and that means cancelling the role of the Higher Committee for Negotiations. The truth is not so, the factions which signed the agreement are not all the factions and also they only control a small area on the around and these factions have omnidirectional ideology and consequently; leaving these factions to go alone will prevent the Russians from creating a new political course that is a replacement of Geneva course sponsored by the United Nations. If the Higher Committee for Negotiations go with the factions practically it would have cancelled itself.

The reason is that the presence of Higher Committee for Negotiations is linked with the reference of resolution number 2254 and hence, changing the reference solution means cancelling the committee.

In the Russian letter to Security Council, there is a frank talk that Astana is only a conference for direct political dialogue between crisis parties. So it is not negotiations. Also, in the clauses of the agreement signed between factions and regime, talking about a mutual work on which a solution roadmap will be instituted. So the objective of Astana Conference is to change rules of the game and change of solution reference and that means the end of the committee in case it got involved in Astana Conference. Hence, the committee in these conditions has to hold into the present solution reference and that is resolution number 2254 and that means to hold into Geneva course sponsored by the UN. Saying that the committee will go to Astana and hold into Geneva reference is not correct and is a result of a wishful unrealistic thinking because the committee going to Astana means it accepts the basics of Astana announced by Russia in its letter to the Security Council which include the factions’ agreement with the regime.

The third option: If there were great pressure on the committee especially by the brothers and friends, the only option is for the committee to harden its stand to announce that the military committee at the Higher Negotiations Committee will be the one to form the delegate going to Astana as well as to agree with the signed factions to form a delegate of defected army officers exclusively and from middle ranks and for this delegate to go in its military uniform and military ranks.

This picture is very important because it means that the delegate going is a regular military delegate representing an alternative legitimacy to the regime army legitimacy and also the delegate only being regular military officers means setting an objective in advance that the objective from Astana is to discuss technical military issues only without getting into political dialogue issue where the authorization given to the delegate would be to discuss paragraphs 12, 13, 14 related to ceasefire, break the siege, entering of aid, and releasing detainees.

This option needs the support of the brother countries especially Saudi Arabia and it is an option that preserves the interests of the revolution and which retains some balance to the Syrian case. It also turns the Astana from a conference to finish the Syrian revolution to a technical meeting that aims to discuss military technical issues where the Geneva course and solution legal references are kept especially resolutions number 2118 and 2245.

By going through the previous three options, we can mention the following notes:
The worst option which the committee might do is to accept participation in Astana by a mutual delegate with the factions which signed the agreement because that means the end of the role of the committee as a partner and second party in the political transition process on the one hand and because this will lead to change the solution references on the other hand.

The room for maneuver is still open in front of the committee and this room is represented in holding into Geneva course and announcing it is going on February 8 to Geneva via de Mistura invitation to discuss political transition issues and to leave the factions signed to go alone to Astana to discuss ceasefire issues and procedures of building trust.

(47)    (42)
Total Comments (0)

Comments About This Article

Please fill the fields below.
*code confirming note