The Interpreter

A special project of Institute of Modern Russia
by Talal Nayer

U.S. Doesn’t Have Enough Clout to Unify Syrian Opposition

Russia and U.S. remain divided over Iran and divisions in Syria's opposition.

The prospects of a Geneva II conference to resolve the Syrian crisis occurring in November are fading, as several key unresolved issues remain. The first is that the Syrian opposition that took to the streets to protest, and later to fight, against Bashar al Assad remains unwilling to negotiate until Assad’s resignation is agreed to as a precondition. They will not deal with the regime that has killed so many Syrians and broken so many promises. The other division is whether Iran should take place in the talks.

But there is an interesting comment coming from Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov — that the U.S. does not have the power or “clout” to unify Syria’s opposition. This, and the comment that all aspects of the opposition must be represented, may indicate that Russia is seeking to bring new players to the table. Syria has long had an officially-recognized opposition, the Popular Front for Change and Liberation, a party that has worked with the Assad regime since before the start of the uprising. It is likely that within that body there is a leader who is willing to negotiate a settlement to the crisis, but this move would not be supported by the vast majority of those opposing the Assad regime. – Ed.


Gatilov: The U.S. does not have enough clout to consolidate Syrian opposition

The U.S. does not have enough influence to consolidate the Syrian opposition. This was announced on Tuesday by the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov, based on the results of tripartite consultations in the Russia-US-UN format on preparations for a peace conference on Syria.

“So far the U.S. does not have sufficient leverage,” stated the official. He stressed that at the peace conference on Syria “the widest possible range of opposition forces” should be represented.

“It is important to note that not only must the opposition be represented, but we must make sure that the delegation includes representatives of a wide range of opposition forces,” said Gatilov. So far the Americans have not been able to ensure that.”

He pointed out that the Geneva II conference may take place by the end of the year if there is enough support for such a schedule. The deputy minister confirmed that the next trilateral format meeting can be held on November 25. He noted that there is still a need to discuss issues related to the opposition’s participation. “There are still uncertainties,” he said.

The U.S. position on Iran’s participation in the Geneva II

As Gatilov stressed, Russia regrets that the U.S. position on Iran’s participation at Geneva II remains negative.

“We discussed their position regarding Iran also participating in the peace conference, but unfortunately, the position is still negative,” he said.

“We tried to convince them once again that Iran is an important participant contributing to the overall progress, and that it plays a major role in the settlement of the Syrian crisis, and can make a positive contribution, and therefore they must be invited,” the deputy minister continued.

He stressed that this position “is shared by the UN and the Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, and the majority of other states support it as well.”

“So far, the partners of the United States do not understand that Iran should also participate in the forum,” said a senior diplomat.

He also said that there is still no clarity regarding the participation of the Syrian opposition in the Geneva II conference.

The representatives of the Russian Federation will meet with the Syrian opposition

On November 6 the Russian delegation will hold a number of meetings with representatives of the Syrian opposition in Geneva, said Gatilov.

“Tomorrow we will have a series of contacts with the Syrian opposition, he said. A number of their representatives came here specially to meet with the Russian delegation.”

“The range of issues to be discussed will be the same – participation in the Geneva II conference, a possibility of unification of opposition groups within a single delegation, and other aspects,” explained the diplomat.