Turkey: Syria political transition to be goal in Geneva peace talks

Turkey: Syria political transition to be goal in Geneva peace talks
Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu

Turkish Foreign Minister said that Geneva is the only viable place to hold peace talks on Syria in order to negotiate a political solution and transition plan, days after the political settlement in Astana ended.

“Astana has never been an alternative to Geneva,” Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told delegates at a security conference in Munich, referring to talks held between Turkey, Russia, Iran as well as opposition and regime representatives in the Kazakh capital.

“It’s a good confidence building measure and helpful to maintain a ceasefire. It’s a good step forward.”

“But now we need to resume Geneva talks, which is the main basis for the political solution and transition,” he said.

Russia said it has a new plan for Syria peace talks which can be achieved with powers that have a real effect on the Syrian ground after its forces backed Assad regime to achieve many victories against the opposition and tilted the tide of war in his favor.

Russia, Iran, and Turkey said they were ready to help broker a Syria peace deal, and organized peace talks meeting in Kazakhstan on January 23.

The first day of the talks was focused on ways to strengthen the ceasefire. It ended with tension as both parts traded blames over truce breaches. In addition, the opposition refused to have direct negotiations with Assad regime.

The talks have ended with Russia, Turkey, and Iran making a joint statement about the consequences of the talks and agreeing on a mechanism to support a delicate ceasefire and to support a new round of peace talks in Geneva.

The second round of Astana talks was held in Kazakhstan’s capital on February 15-16. It didn’t have a final statement, but Turkey, Russia, and Iran issued a mutual agreement indicating that all sides have agreed “there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and it can only be solved through the diplomatic implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution Number 2254 in its entirety.”

Political transition and the opposition’s demands

The Syrian opposition has always demanded that the political transition should be the key point in the peace talks efforts, as changing the regime is the first step in ending the war.

Salim al-Muslit, spokesman of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said the opposition was sticking to its position that President Bashar al-Assad can have no role in the transition, saying “the heavy price paid by the Syrian people” would have been wasted if he remained in power.

Muslit said the HNC, which includes rebel groups and political opponents of Assad, wanted to start the negotiations by discussing a governing body to oversee the transition.

“We want direct negotiations, we want to save time, we want a quick end to the suffering of the Syrian people,” said Muslit. But he said the opposition had yet to receive an agenda for the talks, which are due to begin on Feb. 23 following preliminary meetings beginning on Feb. 20.

Despite the ceasefire, Muslit said Assad and his allies were “still carrying out crimes” and he accused them of preparing a major assault against the rebel-held Ghouta region to the east of Damascus.

“We now want to get into the essence of the political process – the discussion of the political transition – and what the Geneva 1 communique stipulated about the formation of a transitional body with full powers,” Muslit said.

He was referring to the Geneva communique of 2012 calling for the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers that could include members of the present government, the opposition and other groups. The communique said it should be formed on the basis of mutual consent.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.