[gha] Geneva II

  • From: Wadlowz@xxxxxxx
  • To: gha@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 2 Feb 2014 11:06:31 -0500 (EST)

Here is a text I am sending around to a number of people as I  think that a 
push in the next few days, especially encouragement to the Russian  Foreign 
Ministry , would be important , best wishes, Rene
Geneva II: « A  Modest Beginning On Which We Can Build » 
Rene Wadlow 

The United Nations-League of Arab States Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, in a  press 
conference announcing a break until 10 February 2014 of the Geneva II  
negotiations said that the negotiations had been “a modest beginning on which 
 can build.”  It was expected that  Geneva II on the Syrian armed conflict 
would be long and difficult.  Geneva I had been short and relatively  easy 
since only the Russians and the USA were speaking to each other, and both  
had the “Yemen model” in mind: the president of Yemen goes into a safe exile, 
a  slightly broader transition government is formed, nothing else changes — 
no  reforms, no greater security but life is a bit better than  before. 
Geneva II everyone predicted would be more difficult as Syrians would  
participate in the discussion — the Syrian Government and some but not all of  
the armed opposition factions.  Geneva II started in Montreux at the opposite 
end of the Lake of Geneva because on the  days chosen for the often 
postponed start, there was a trade show for expensive  watches in Geneva, and 
types of  hotels where Foreign Ministers stay were all booked. Montreux has a 
good number  of 1900-style hotels from the time that people spent their 
summers on the lake  shore. Some 40 States attended the start, some because 
they were directly  concerned, others to give encouragement. After the one-day 
start, some  participants left for Davos — the World Economic Forum — to 
talk trade, and the  Syrians moved to Geneva. 
The official Syrian delegations met in the UN Palais des Nations but not  
always together — Brahimi going from one conference room to the next.  Other 
interested parties — uninvited  opposition groups, Kurds, Lebanese, met in 
quiet restaurants and hotel rooms.  The Iranians have a large Mission to the 
UN. While  some Iranian diplomats went with their President to Davos, some 
stayed to see  what was going on among the Syrians.  Also it has long been 
known that independent arms merchants live in the  hills above Montreux, 
giving them a fine view on the lake — though the arms are  kept elsewhere.  If 
they were not  able to finish their sales to Syrian groups on their stay in 
Montreux, the arms  merchants have the resources to drive to Geneva. 
What is now possible to build on the modest beginning?  What role can 
outside governments and  non-governmental conflict-resolution organizations 
 The distance among Syrians and the  intensity of negative feelings was 
symbolized by rival Syrian groups  demonstrating in the square just beyond the 
UN property.  The “Place des Nations” belongs to the  city of Geneva.  
While one needs a police permit to  demonstrate legally, the permits are 
normally granted. There are often groups  with signs and fliers.  The police  
watch, but usually have little to do.  There are rarely groups holding 
conflicting views at the same time as was  seen during the Syrian negotiations. 
police prevented violence, but they had to do more than just  watch.   
Although there was no formal agreement between the Syrian Government and  
the armed opposition, the one topic on which there might be an agreement was 
on  temporary access of humanitarian relief to some conflict areas and  
internally-displaced people camps.  Such humanitarian relief is urgently 
a large number of people  have left their homes unable to take supplies 
with them; certain towns and parts  of cities are the scene of continued 
fighting. No-man-lands are unclear, and  there are no official “safe havens”.  
In some of my contacts with the Russian Foreign Ministry concerning the  
possibility of their offering their good offices to the Syrian Government for  
relief, I received the impression that the Russians are willing to make an  
effort along these lines.  Aid to  the city of Homs — the third most  
populated of Syria — has been  mentioned.  Aid to displaced-persons  camps is 
more difficult as different, non-cooperating groups hold different  segments of 
the roads. 
At this stage, US or more generally Western government influence is  slight 
both with the Syrian Government and with the most hard-line of the  
opposition.  Thus it is basically  the Russians who can take the lead.  
there are US-based and Western European relief organizations,  and they may be 
able to play a logistic role and use US and Western European  food and 
medical supplies  
There is only a short time for private discussions to reach an agreement  
before the 10 February public restart.  If an agreement can be reached 
between now and 10 February so that the  agreement could be announced at the 
of the negotiations, it could help the  more political aspects of the 
negotiations.  In any case, humanitarian aid is needed  to limit the current 
heavy suffering. 
Thus we must use the influence we have in the next few days to push for  an 
accord on relief supplies 
Rene Wadlow, President and Representative to the UN,  Geneva, Association 
of World Citizens 

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