Russia’s envoy to the long and almost perpetually stalled Geneva peace talks for Syria has admonished members of the so-called “Syrian opposition” to stop playing games and cease repeating the old line that “Assad must go”, as the reality is that the President of Syria will remain in his office for the foreseeable future.
Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Geneva office and other Geneva-based International Organizations Alexei Borodavkin, spoke before fellow United Nations Security Council members, including the United States, telling them to give their proxy “opposition forces” who recently met in Saudi Arabia, a dose of reality when it comes to their goals for the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, to be held in Sochi. The aim of the Congress is to thrash out a workable compromise between the Syrian government and elements of the so-called “opposition” who are ready to renounce violence and engage in a political dialogue organised by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Borodavkin was abundantly clear in his message when he stated,
“The document that opposition adopted in Riyadh, cited by the opposition delegation which has arrived in Geneva, is very contradictory.On the one hand, the document says that the opposition is not setting any preconditions, but on the other hand, there is a demand for Bashar al-Assad’s resignation in the very beginning of the transition period. What is that if not a precondition?”
Borodavkin told the US and its allies to bring their proxies “down to earth” so that they can accept the reality that the Syrian President’s departure is unrealistic and that they must work with Bashar al-Assad in a political process rather than continually attempt to set ridiculous preconditions for discussions.
He continued, with a further admonition to the “opposition” about an equally untenable demand that Iran withdraw from Syria, in spite of its presence in the country being fully legal
“They also demand that Iranian militia units lave Syria, which is also unrealisticIt is unclear how the opposition members plan to hold talks with representatives of the Syrian government if the delegation coming from Riyadh views them almost as criminals with whom it is impossible to talk”.
The reality of Russia and indeed of Syria’s willingness to sit across the table from so-called “opposition” figures who are nothing more than Takfiri extremists, is not to compromise the most fundamental elements of the Syrian constitution nor the security of the Syrian Arab Republic.
The reality of the forthcoming talks is instead, an attempt to engage individuals and groups who had previously and in some cases are still fighting against Syria, in order to convince them to disarm and accept the general amnesty that President al-Assad has offered multiple times to Syrian nationals who renounce terrorism and engage in a peaceful political process.
In this sense, the goals of the forthcoming talks are not new, as Syria has offered such an amnesty for years. The only difference is that this time, talks between the legitimate government and those who had previously refused President al-Assad’s amnesty, will take place with all parties sitting at a meeting convened by international mediators. This has become necessary as previously, “opposition” groups refused to engage in bilateral discussions with Damascus. It has only been since the convening of the Astana peace talks under the mediation of Russia, Iran and Turkey that such a thing has become possible.
At such a stage, then Syria, with the mediation of the Astana Group, can engage in intense discussions about a final political settlement based on compromises which cannot be foretold, but which will, according to the latest Astana memorandum, not include agreements to damage the territorial unity of the Syrian Arab Republic.
The Astana Group has guaranteed that the key demands of Syria’s enemies, the removal of President al-Assad and the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, or else the partitioning of Syria, are simply off the table. This was recently re-confirmed by public statements from the Presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey.
If the so-called “opposition” seek to get anything out of future discussions, they must accept these simple facts and tone down their outlandish demands. Alexei Borodavkin’s statement makes this position clear beyond any shadow of doubt. It is now up to the opponents of Damascus to either accept this and work around it, or else get essentially nothing from future discussions.
The Syrian government is making a colossal compromise by even sitting at the table with such criminal elements and is prepared to make further moderate compromises within a legal framework for the sake of peace. If the opposition cannot “come down to earth” as Borodavkin told them to do, it will be clear that even in the face of complete defeat, they are not capable of compromise and have no interest in a genuine peace.