ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A series of peace talks in Astana in Geneva on the Syrian conflict has made something clear and it is that the opposition no longer has plans to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, says Russia’s ambassador in Geneva.
Alexei Borodavkin, Russia’s ambassador in Geneva told Reuters on Saturday that during the seventh round of peace talks which ended on Friday produced positive results, especially a “correction” in how the main opposition approached the negotiations.
“The essence of this correction is that during this round the opposition never once demanded the immediate resignation of President Bashar al-Assad and the legitimate Syrian government,” Borodavkin stated.
“The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) and its backers in Western and Gulf capitals had realized that peace needed to come first, and then political reforms could be negotiated,” he said.
In previous peace talks the HNC and its backers had repeatedly stated that “Assad must go” However, the request is highly rejected by Russia, Syria’s closest ally and strongest military presence in alliance with Assad.
At the UN talks in Geneva, Syrian negotiators focused primarily on the fight against terrorism within the country, particularly the presence of ISIS, and avoided political discussions.
The Syrian government has yet to negotiate directly with the opposition since there is no unified delegation to meet with at this time. The opposition is spread among the HNC in Syria, the group known as the Cairo platform and another group known as the Moscow platform, who all claim to represent the opposition of the Syrian regime.
UN mediator, Steffan de Mistura has met each side separately in the last seven rounds of talks with the outcome being only a decision on what to discuss which include a new constitution, reformed governance, new elections and fighting terrorism, but included no real blueprint on how to carry out every request.
Borodavkin stated that a unified opposition delegation would depend on their willingness to compromise with Assad and the Syrian government.
“If they will be ready to make deals with the government delegation, that is one thing. If they again slide into ultimatums and preconditions that are not realistic, then this will not fly. This will lead the negotiations, be it direct or indirect, into a deadlock,” Borodavkin said.
Borodavkin also stressed the importance of stronger opposition representation including the Kurdish population since they were Syrian citizens and have their own political and military influence within the country.
But he stated it was up to de Mistura on how and when it would be possible to incorporate the Kurds into the peace process.