Will the Geneva talks bring peace to Syria?

There is still no sign of an agreement being reached at the Syria peace talks in Geneva. The UN proposal for a transitional government with Assad as head of state was rejected by the opposition on the weekend. Is there still hope of a positive outcome?

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Der Standard (AT) /

De Mistura in a dilemma

Der Standard sees the negotiators in Geneva in a real dilemma:

“Whatever the UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura does now, it can only be wrong. In Geneva, where indirect talks between the Syrian regime and (one part) of the opposition are underway, he can either respect both sides' 'red line' - in which case he'll make no progress. Or he can try to bend these lines - and risk having the talks fail. ... What is almost being lost sight of in all this is that the IS is once again making major advances in Northern Syria. Hopefully that will be enough to keep the negotiators in Geneva.”

Libération (FR) /

Peace plan fails over Assad

The Assad regime's unbending attitude is radically compromising the success of the peace plan passed in December by the UN Security Council, the centre-left daily Libération comments pessimistically:

“Under the present conditions this plan has no chance of being implemented. The delegation of the High Negotiations Committee, which represents the most important opponents of the Syrian regime, has rejected any involvement of Bashar al-Assad in the transitional government. Damascus sees things differently, and considers the fate of the Syrian president as a 'red line'. On Thursday, one day before the arrival of the representatives of the regime in Geneva, al-Assad's troops started an offensive to try to prevent the rebels from pushing their way as far as the major northern city of Aleppo. The ceasefire that came into force on February 27 has been violated numerous times, and is now on the verge of collapse.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Last chance to end the war

The international community must do everything in its power to ensure that the ceasefire in Syria is respected and the peace negotiations are resumed, the General Coordinator of the High Negotiations Committee, Riyad Hijab, writes in the centre-left daily Le Monde:

“The international partners must ensure that the ceasefire is adhered to, and they must be willing to take the necessary steps if it is violated by the Assad regime. We remain convinced that a democratic transition is the best solution for putting an end to the horrors of this war which is killing the Syrians or sending them into exile. It is in the interest of all nations, notably the United States and Europe, to throw their weight behind a ceasefire and ensure that negotiations take place as planned. And the time to do this is now. Afterwards it will be too late and the country will plunge into chaos with unforeseeable consequences for one and all.”

Delo (SI) /

A ray of hope

A small window of hope has opened now that the ceasefire is set to enter its second week, the centre-left daily Delo writes:

“The fact that the ceasefire has held raises hopes that the US and Russia have been able to at least 'freeze' the Syrian civil war in which more than 70 states are caught up. Despite the huge amount of political opportunism involved, hopes exist that with robust diplomacy and steady pressure on the main players in the conflict, something can really be achieved. ... It's high time that the international community - a synonym for powerlessness and guilt - begins no-holds-barred peace negotiations under the joint leadership of Washington, Moscow and the UN.”

Agos (TR) /

Kurdish issue has divided US and Turkey on Syria

The Syrian war is exposing a serious rift between Nato partners the US and Turkey, the weekly of the Armenian minority Agos comments:

“We are seeing that Ankara and Washington back opposing forces there: while Turkey was fighting the Kurdish guerrilla units the US was supplying them with weapons and backing them up with air strikes. By fighting the Kurdish guerrilla forces and opting to support jihadist elements among the Syrian rebels Ankara has made a serious mistake and marginalised the Syrian opposition and its right to have a say in international politics. Today the US is neither enthusiastic about proper intervention in Syria nor does it have any allies it can trust.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (DE) /

Moscow retains the upper hand in Syria

Russia holds all the trumps in Syria, the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung comments:

“Moscow can afford a little ceasefire in Syria. At last Russia and the US are on an equal footing and they worked out the ceasefire together. Thanks to thousands of strikes carried out by its airforce Moscow has considerably strengthened the Assad regime's position and weakened the opposition's influence. … Russia seized the initiative in Syria and no one can take that away again. It will do everything it can to ensure that it stays this way and that in the end there are no alternatives to Assad. This is the consequence of the West simply looking on for too long in Syria instead of taking action.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

The ceasefire fairy tale

Believing in a ceasefire is like believing in fairy godmothers and magic wands, the daily 24 Chasa writes:

“The simple and honest truth about the planned ceasefire is that no one believes even for a moment that it will work. It's nothing but a fairy tale for grown ups, a chimera, an illusion, because it was announced without consulting the al-Nusra Front, the IS or the terrorist groups that belong to them. ... Let's say some [opposition] groups lay down their arms and respect the ceasefire in a good will gesture. As soon as the Syrian government decides to start shooting at them because it regards them as terrorists, they're hardly going to stand there twiddling their thumbs. ... Ceasefire or not: as soon as one group starts shooting, the response from the opposing trenches won't be long in coming, and no one will care who fired first.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Lasting peace only with federalism

Any kind of lasting peace in Syria will depend on the reaction of the regional powers to the ceasefire and the state model established in the war-torn country, commentator Botond Feledy comments in the Hungarian-language daily Új Szó:

“The key question is how the regional powers - Turkey, Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf - will react. Will they continue the proxy war or will they cut off the money supply and stop delivering weapons to Syria? … This seems only likely to happen if Syria is turned into a federal state, as was done with Lebanon. Federalism would ensure that none of the different religious denominations in Syria holds sway and that the fragile balance in the Middle East is preserved. In other words: if neither Shiite Iran nor Sunni Saudi Arabia's nose is put out of joint.”

Keskisuomalainen (FI) /

Make the most of any chance of peace

The planned ceasefire in Syria won't apply for all the conflicting parties - the fighting against the radical Islamists will continue. But even if this somewhat diminishes the significance of the truce it remains a crucial step, writes the liberal daily Keskisuomalainen:

“Of course it's not a proper ceasefire when each fighting party in a chaotic civil war announces separately for whom the ceasefire applies. But the announcement is still a sign that things are moving. … Perhaps the truce is just a brief pause in the fighting so the warring parties can regroup. But the humanitarian crisis in Syria is so serious that any step towards peace is welcome if it can lessen the suffering of those whose lives have been devastated by the war.”

Le Vif / L'Express (BE) /

Europe's inaction plays into hands of IS

It's lamentable that no one has been able to come up with a strategy for dealing with the IS, futurologist Jonathan Piron writes in the weekly magazine Le Vif/L'Express:

“The attacks by the Syrian regime and Russia are eradicating the non-jihadist opposition in Syria. The fact that Europe has failed to react only strengthens the IS, as does the inability to come up with a joint strategy for Iraq and Syria. ... It's incredible that no real alternative for the post-IS period including both Iraq and Syria has been the subject of a real debate either here or there. The fear that is spreading here and the way it has been used by the racist and populist movements contributes to strengthening the terrorist dynamic. The collapse of Europe in face of the Syrian refugee crisis and the frenzied focus on security and identity issues is the worst of all solutions.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Everything depends on Moscow

Whether or not the truce in Syria comes off will depend on Moscow alone, the centre-left daily Der Standard believes:

“The 'cessation of hostilities' - which is not the same as a ceasefire - is provisional, doesn't apply everywhere and not everyone who has committed to it will stick to it. The agreed terms are vague, implementation mechanisms are almost entirely lacking and relations between the plan's sponsors, the US and Russia, are precarious. Yet this (attempted) ceasefire is still significant: the mantra that there is no solution for Syria will culminate in concrete measures on the ground. The scepticism on all sides is well founded. Russia seems more optimistic than the US - and the US seems more optimistic than its European partners. Everything depends on Russia's willingness to stop its airstrikes against the rebels fighting Assad in a few days' time.”

Sme (SK) /

Ceasefire illusory

The US has never really taken an interest in this war and is therefore partially to blame for the virtual impossibility of a truce, the liberal daily Sme concludes:

“In 2013 US President Barack Obama trivialised the conflict in Syria calling it 'someone else's war', and promised to keep the US military out of it. He said that after the Assad regime killed more than a thousand of its own people, including children, with the chemical weapon sarin. Before that Obama had said that in America's eyes committing such a crime would be to 'cross a red line'. … The truce that is to take effect on Saturday is already being called into question by Turkey, which wants to continue bombing the Kurds. … Syria's suffering reminds us of what happens when we ignore 'someone else's war'. If we all live together in a burning house then everyone needs to pitch in to put out the fire.”

Duma (BG) /

Major powers impose truce

It's regrettable that the ceasefire in Syria was worked out merely between Obama and Putin, the left-leaning daily Duma criticises:

“When you consider what a struggle it was for the major powers to reach the difficult decision to put an end to the absolutely pointless and superfluous war in Syria, you can't help being reminded of Vietnam. The agencies announced that Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin agreed to impose a provisional ceasefire on the warring parties in Syria. The other Western countries, the Arab states and the international community weren't even consulted. Their voices could be heard here and there, but they spoke very quietly and reservedly. They know their opinion is not wanted. And as is so often the case, the US's supposedly open ear remained deaf.”

Karjalainen (FI) /

Just a tiny glimmer of hope for Syria

The proposed truce in Syria holds out a glimmer of hope but also raises questions, the liberal daily Karjalainen believes:

“The fact that Russia is involved in the plan this time round is of course a decisive factor. President Bashar al-Assad also sent a hopeful signal as soon as the ceasefire was announced by holding out the prospect of new elections. ... The biggest obstacle preventing an end to the war, however, remains the IS, which no one is ready to stop fighting. How can you implement a ceasefire when the war is raging on another front? The IS is not about to capitulate. On the contrary, it is bent on expanding its activities beyond Syria and Iraq. Moreover it will take a great deal of effort to get other rebel organisations to agree to peace. The situation in Syria has simply been allowed to get completely out of control.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

West must set up protective zones

A ceasefire won't be enough to protect the civilian population, the liberal business paper Handelsblatt writes, and calls on the West to act:

“That means firstly thwarting Moscow's power politics, and secondly overcoming our own state of shock. There can be no ceasefire in Syria without a Western-guaranteed protection zone for civilians. ... In the east of Syria where the Americans are most active, this is still a possibility for easing the humanitarian disaster. But - and this must also be clear to everyone - it won't happen without ground support. The experiences with Ukraine show that Putin only gives in when the West acts firmly and as one.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Ceasefire more like war à la carte

The agreed truce doesn't stand any real chance of being effective, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore writes:

“The terms for a ceasefire brokered between the US and Russia are a faithful copy of the failed Munich deal, with certain surreal elements. Firstly the truce doesn't apply for IS positions, the positions of al-Qaeda's Syrian offshoot the al-Nusra Front or other guerrilla groups backed by the Turks and Saudis. They won't agree to the plan by noon on Friday as the plan foresees. Secondly the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stressed at a meeting with his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni that for Turkey the Syrian Kurds are terrorists. This means that Turkey will continue fighting, and is even considering sending in ground troops. In other words, the truce is so selective that it could better be described as war à la carte, with each party allowed to select their choice of enemy from the menu.”

Radikal (TR) /

Ceasefire a way out of the Kurdish conflict

Turkey should use the ceasefire agreement to rethink its stance vis-à-vis the Kurds in the region, the liberal online paper Radikal urges:

“We are at a stage in which the general perception is that the Ankara attack was carried out by the PYD - or its partner forces. It's clear that the PYD was also hurt by the attack. … The Middle East is experiencing very painful developments. The ceasefire can be seen as a chance to stop and think. As a chance to take another look at the problem. … Yes the PKK-PYD alliance has broken all bridges with Turkey. And Turkey is responding with the same ruthlessness. But Ankara urgently needs to find new options for dealing with the Kurdish issue.”

More opinions

The Guardian (GB) / 29 February 2016
  US and Russia can only make peace acting together
Hürriyet Daily News (TR) / 25 February 2016
  Turkey's exclusion blocks long-term solution in Syria