Vienna Syria talks continue — final roadmap the outcome?

A lot is at stake this weekend in the Austrian capital city of Vienna.
The leading diplomats from up to 18 countries (17 confirmed at the time of going to press with Australia named as a further potential participant), plus the United Nations and the European Union will come together for a further round of talks aimed at finding a solution to the ongoing Syrian crisis.
Informal meetings of experts preceded the arrival of foreign ministers for the talks scheduled to start yesterday (Nov. 14) and judging by the moderately optimistic air surrounding the event it is nevertheless obvious that an immediate consensus is far from imminent.
One should, however, never underestimate the impact of the host nation in such delicate international gatherings. While putting pen to paper for this article I received an update about Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz meeting UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura. Other bilateral face-to-face encounters will also take place later today, with Omanand’s FM Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah as one important partner. The list of invited nations is impressive in any case Turkeyand’s Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioilu had already announced his attendance earlier this week. Thus said, andlsquodiplomacy 247and’ is expected to fill the salons and corridors of the Hotel Imperial where the talks are held. Whatand’s more, seen from a historical dimension, Vienna has a reputation for being a logical choice for multi-faceted international get-togethers where many on-the-record and off-the-record deals have previously been struck, hence my earlier note regarding Viennaand’s hopefully positive impact as host city.
But the topic is more complicated than usual. While representatives of the UN, the EU and many other nations meet in Austria, a second negotiation was supposed to have been established involving the Syrian opposition and representatives of the Bashar al-Assad regime. This UN-sponsored plan is worth pursuing, yet even here the expected meeting placeand’s location initially made more headlines than its agenda: De Mistura preferred a and”neutraland” location and suggested Geneva as one of the UNand’s sites whereas Moscow had asked to host the talks in Russia.
Besides this behind closed doors bargaining about the where, who and about what, the actual issue of finding a solution for the conflict in Syria is too important to be discussed for an indefinite period of time. Innocent people are dying every day in Syria. Innocent people are forced to flee their native land. Hoping for peace in a new country, many then lose their lives in transit. Itand’s a human catastrophe of enormous proportions.
We are all too aware of the fact that there is more at stake than simply debating the question, and”With or without Assad?and” There is the pressing matter of holding free and fair elections but this cannot be arranged in the short term. First, stability of some sort and to some degree must return to Syria and the fighting has to stop. The international community has announced it wants to preserve the territorial integrity of Syria, which is easier said than done. In the UN Geneva proposal about who should eventually talk with each other from the Syrian side, agreement must be reached quickly in regard to a decision on which opposition groups should sit at the negotiating table and which other groups should be labeled as terrorist organizations.
What are the plans in Tehran and Moscow? Where does Washington stand? And if I may add, do the parties now talking with each other in Vienna understand the drastic relevance of the situation in Syria as seen from a Turkish perspective? Turkey is at the frontline and has the utmost desire to come to common ground but needs more pro-active support from the international community now meeting in Vienna.
I sincerely hope the talks bear fruit and that the issue will also be raised during the G-20 gathering, which begins today in Antalya. The killing of innocent men, women and children in Syria must end the ensuing migrant crisis cannot continue in the same way. It is no solution to create a and”desertedand” Syria. Some day in the future, people must be able to return to help rebuild their nation should they so decide.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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