Diplomats meet in Geneva to discuss Syrian peace conference

U.S. and Russian officials have met in Geneva with U.N. and Arab League Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi for talks aimed at paving the way for the long-delayed Geneva II peace conference on Syria. They will be joined by the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, France, and China — as well as ...

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. and Russian officials have met in Geneva with U.N. and Arab League Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi for talks aimed at paving the way for the long-delayed Geneva II peace conference on Syria. They will be joined by the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, France, and China -- as well as Syria's neighboring countries -- Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey. Brahimi said he hopes to convene the conference "in the next few weeks, not next year." However, the meetings have come just after Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi reasserted President Bashar al-Assad's commitment to remain in office, saying "we will not go to Geneva to hand over power." Syria's main opposition coalition maintains it would only participate in the conference if the aim is a political transition away from Assad. Additionally the parties are divided over Iran's involvement in the proposed talks. Meanwhile, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the Security Council Monday that about 40 percent of the Syrian population, 9.3 million people, need humanitarian assistance due to the two and half year civil war. The Syrian government committed Monday to deliver humanitarian aid and vaccinations across the country, as concerns increase over a polio outbreak in the northeast. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, tasked with overseeing the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, has reported it only has sufficient funding to maintain operations through November. The organization will need to raise tens to hundreds of millions of dollars for the destruction of Syria's chemical stockpile slated for 2014.

Headlines

Twenty Egyptian and 10 Emirati Islamists have gone on trial in the U.A.E. on charges of illegally establishing a Muslim Brotherhood branch. Talks between Tunisia's ruling Islamists and opposition parties have been suspended over their inability to agree on a prime minister to lead an interim government. Saudi Arabia has detained thousands of illegal foreign workers as an amnesty period expired in efforts to alleviate unemployment while the kingdom faces accusations of an abusive labor system. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet separately with Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week as sources say the U.S. administration is preparing to propose a peace deal in January. 

U.S. and Russian officials have met in Geneva with U.N. and Arab League Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi for talks aimed at paving the way for the long-delayed Geneva II peace conference on Syria. They will be joined by the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, France, and China — as well as Syria’s neighboring countries — Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey. Brahimi said he hopes to convene the conference "in the next few weeks, not next year." However, the meetings have come just after Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi reasserted President Bashar al-Assad’s commitment to remain in office, saying "we will not go to Geneva to hand over power." Syria’s main opposition coalition maintains it would only participate in the conference if the aim is a political transition away from Assad. Additionally the parties are divided over Iran’s involvement in the proposed talks. Meanwhile, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the Security Council Monday that about 40 percent of the Syrian population, 9.3 million people, need humanitarian assistance due to the two and half year civil war. The Syrian government committed Monday to deliver humanitarian aid and vaccinations across the country, as concerns increase over a polio outbreak in the northeast. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, tasked with overseeing the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, has reported it only has sufficient funding to maintain operations through November. The organization will need to raise tens to hundreds of millions of dollars for the destruction of Syria’s chemical stockpile slated for 2014.

Headlines

Arguments and Analysis

The Trials‘ (Timothy E. Kaldas, Mada Masr)

"It cannot be denied that Morsi and the Brotherhood played a substantial role in arriving at this catastrophic point in their political history. I do not agree that this counter-revolutionary coup was inevitable and in the works from day one without the Brotherhood having any recourse available to prevent it. And I do not mean to suggest that Morsi was pursuing the goals or interests of the revolution. However the coup that took place on July 3, in spite of its popularity, had as a central goal of its architects the re-establishment of the power of the police state and military regime. This is clear from the reports emerging of intimidation of Cabinet members seeking rapprochement with the Brotherhood, and the emphasis of the Interior Ministry and certain generals on pursuing a violent and vengeful crackdown on the Brotherhood. The 25 January uprising began as a demonstration against police brutality and today the police kill protesters with impunity. Human Rights Watch has clearly demonstrated that police have used excessive deadly force on protesters repeatedly and switch to live ammunition with little to no warning.

The sad truth is that the very nature of the Brotherhood’s structure and organizational history set it up, as much as the security apparatus, to fail and be vulnerable to such a demise. The same features that allowed the Brotherhood to survive decades of repression made it fail as a political party in a competitive political environment. Had the Brotherhood followed through with its promise to collaborate with opposition parties and build a coalition government from the outset it would have been much more difficult for the military and security apparatus to seize the state so flagrantly as they did on July 3. Had Morsi as president worked towards a consensual constitution rather than force his down the throats of the opposition and the Egyptian people he would have had far more sympathizers among Egypt’s remaining revolutionaries."

Syria’s Assault on Doctors‘ (Annie Sparrow, The New York Review of Books – Blog)

"The Assad regime has come to view doctors as dangerous, their ability to heal rebel fighters and civilians in rebel-held areas a weapon against the government. Over the past two and a half years, doctors, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists who provide treatment to civilians in contested areas have been arrested and detained; paramedics have been tortured and used as human shields, ambulances have been targeted by snipers and missiles; medical facilities have been destroyed; the pharmaceutical industry devastated. Directly and indirectly, the attacks have had a profound effect on tens of thousands of health professionals and millions of Syrian patients, let alone the more than 2 million refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.

Here is how a surgeon from Aleppo describes the attitude of the Syrian government. Last April, while treating a man seriously wounded by a government sniper, he was accosted and wrenched away by a military intelligence officer: ‘We are shooting at them in order to kill them. This is obvious,’ the intelligence officer told him. ‘Since you are stopping him from dying, you are a terrorist. For this you will be punished.’ The surgeon’s clinic was destroyed, his wife’s clinic was shut down, and they were forced to flee Aleppo. As a surgeon, he is not authorized to practice in Turkey, where they have taken refuge, despite the urgent need of his skills there."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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