Syrian officials meet in Moscow to negotiate transitional government plans
New diplomatic initiatives are in motion to help end the 21-month civil war in Syria. A plan first proposed last summer for a transitional government to run Syria until elections are held is being revived.
In Moscow, Syrian officials and their Russian allies are meeting with the United Nation’s special Syrian envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.
For months, Russia has said it wouldn’t accept a plan for the end of the Syrian civil war that called for President Bashar Assad’s ouster or blocked top members of Assad’s regime from participating in a future government. But as the conflict drags on, violence increases and the death roll rises, the conversation has changed.
BBC reporter James Reynolds says he’s unsure of how to interpret the meeting, because the nature of Brahimi’s job is to try and propose peace plans the majority isn’t interested in. And the parties fighting in the conflict believe they can gain more from diplomacy by fighting.
“The rebels believe that their best bet is to win through force because they've made a lot of gains on the battlefield in the last month or so. And President Assad may feel that his best way of staying in power and protecting both himself and his inner circle is to try to defeat the rebels and not share power with the opposition,” he said.
The regime’s army has lost control over most of Syria. Reynolds says this could give Brahimi an advantage he didn’t have six months ago. But, he said, in order for Brahimi to get a diplomatic deal, he’ll need leverage with both sides. He currently has more leverage with the Assad government.
"The trouble is, for diplomacy to work both sides have to sign up. And at the moment the rebels show little appetite for signing up to anything offered by Mr. Brahimi,” he said.
In public, Reynolds says, Syria’s Russian allies are saying they weren’t expecting Assad to always win and they’re concerned for the future of Syria.
"Recently the Russian president was here in Istanbul and his advisor told our reporters that if President Assad fell, there would be twice as much bloodshed in Syria,” he said. “Russian officials are prepared to talk about a post-Assad Syria but they're not necessarily prepared in public to disassociate themselves fully from the Assad government.”
On the one hand Reynolds says, the longer the fighting goes on the more opportunity the opposition has to form their own political structures, unite and put forth a credible alternative for Syria’s future. But, alternatively, the longer this goes on the more fractured the opposition may become.
"I'm not quite sure which way people should see it yet,” he said.
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