As contesting parties in the Syrian war gather in Geneva for peace talks, the government’s negotiators are facing pressure to discuss the fate of Syrian president Bashar Al- Assad.
The topic is unavoidable, despite the government’s negotiators efforts to push it to the side, because it addresses the core of what the outcome of a post-civil war government in Syria will look like.
UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura refused to avoid discussing Al-Assad’s fate, describing the transitional government as the main issue on the table.
The conflict over Al-Assad’s fate was the main reason behind the failure of UN sponsored peace talks in 2012 and 2014.
After completing a week of negotiations, de Mistura praised the ideas suggested by the opposition, and criticised the efforts of the regime’s diplomats.
The opposition insists, along with the US, that any peace agreement should include the departure of Al-Assad.
The Syrian government and Russia, however, refuse to consider Al-Assad’s removal from office.
Russia’s support in Syria’s offensive against the “Islamic State” (IS), as well as opposition forces, has bolstered Al-Assad’s position in recent months, gaining him new ground in a war that recently passed the five-year mark.
Russia recently announced that it would pull Russian troops out of Syria. However, Russian airstrikes are still ongoing.
US secretary of state John Kerry will meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin this week in Moscow for talks, of which Syria is expected to be the main focus.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Alloush, the negotiating chief for the Syrian opposition, told the press that the delegation will decide at the end of the week whether they will continue in the peace negotiations.
Alloush said little progress has been made and the Syrian government has been unwilling to fully engage. He said the points raised by the government’s negotiators fail to address the transitional government.