GENEVA, Switzerland – The United States and Russia have put their disagreements aside to call for localized cease-fires between the Syrian government and rebels. Both nations seek to ease tension between the warring sides heading into the peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland on January 22.
The ceasefires are meant to build confidence among the Syrian government and rebels before entering the negotiation process. Additional measures have been put forth to ease the tension as well. For example, the U.S. and Russia have agreed to include prison exchanges and blockade closures.
The ridding of blockades is crucial to the delivery of humanitarian aid, especially since civilians have been unable to access needed aid because of the blockades placed by both the Syrian government and rebels.
Progress was made when President Bashar al-Assad agreed to open channels for food and medical supplies to reach the Damascus Suburb of East Ghouta. Forces loyal to the Assad regime have occupied the region and additional locations for the past year.
Furthermore, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov encouraged rebels to allow humanitarian aid access in Aleppo, where infighting among opposing rebel groups have taken place.
Extremist fighters better equipped with weapons and funding have been problematic for the moderate rebel groups supported by the United States. However, the moderate rebel groups have, in fact, agreed to the ceasefire as requested by the U.S. and Russia.
Secretary of State John Kerry explained that measures would be taken to isolate the extremists, but acknowledged that the process would take time to accomplish.
The U.S. and Russia have been on opposing sides throughout the Syria crisis with the U.S. siding with the moderate rebel groups and Russia siding with the Assad regime. The two nations are, however, in agreement about having a conference to address the Syrian civil war, but not the conference participants.
Iran’s participation in the peace talks is uncertain as the U.S. and Russia remain steadfast in their opposing views on the matter. For instance, Kerry stated that Iran could not participate in the conference if the nation opposes the replacement of the Assad regime with a transitional government.
The desired result of the peace talks involves the Assad regime and their opposition both agreeing to a transitional government being in control of Syria until democracy is achieved. Kerry acknowledged that it would not be an easy process, but needs to commence immediately.
The U.S. and the regime’s opposition, furthermore, made it a condition that Assad is not allowed to be in the transitional government.
Political analyst Kamel Wazne expressed how important it is that opposing countries come together in cooperation to end the Syria crisis. He found it encouraging that the U.S. and Russia are working together on the matter, though, he cautioned that both Iran and Saudi Arabia must do the same for the effort to succeed.
Wazne faulted the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia for the war currently spreading from Syria to Lebanon and Yemen. He warned that Iran and Saudi Arabia would go to war too if they do not make peace.
Iran, on the other hand, has Russia’s support in joining the peace talks in Geneva. Lavrov expressed that the United Nations should make the call rather than place the responsibility on Russia and the United States. He was hopeful United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon would allow Iran to participate.
Moreover, Lavrov was concerned that ideology could get in the way of putting an end to the crisis in Syria.
Kerry explained, however, that it is common sense and not ideology that has kept Iran from the negotiation table. Iran’s attendance at the conference will depend on whether or not it can support the set terms.
– Brittany Mannings
Sources: The Washington Post, Al-jazeera
Photo: United Nations Multimedia