Is there a solution to the Syrian crisis?

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
Is there a solution to the Syrian crisis?
The situation in Syria remains difficult. What’s more, the ongoing humanitarian crisis continues to deteriorate. ...

The situation in Syria remains difficult. What’s more, the ongoing humanitarian crisis continues to deteriorate. The opposition still refuses to sit down at the negotiating table with Damascus. The death toll is rising. Is there a solution to the Syrian crisis, or are we about to witness a cruel civil war drag on into 2013?

The Syrian crisis has continued for over a year with no prospects for peace. Last week, Geneva hosted another trilateral meeting on Syria: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and the UN/Arab League Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi all took part.

Russia has responded positively to a proposal to continue consultations in group format, convinced that no effort should be spared to achieve a political settlement in Syria. Currently, the Geneva Communique adopted at the Action Group Ministerial meeting on June 30, 2012, is the only document that offers a consensus for achieving this goal.

It is worth mentioning that its provisions and principles have, for some reason, not been covered by the British press.

The final Communique of the Action Group for Syria sets forth the following clear steps in the transition:

“The establishment of a transitional governing body, which can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place. That means that the transitional governing body would exercise full executive powers. It could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups, and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.”

“It is for the Syrian people to determine the future of the country. All groups and segments of society in Syria must be enabled to participate in a National Dialogue process. That process must not only be inclusive, it must also be meaningful – that is to say, its key outcomes must be implemented.”

“On this basis, there can be a review of the constitutional order and the legal system. The result of constitutional drafting would be subject to popular approval.”

“Once the new constitutional order is established, it is necessary to prepare for and conduct free and fair multi-party elections for the new institutions and offices that have been established.”

• “Women must be fully represented in all aspects of the transition.”

United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Valerie Amos (2L) flanked by European Commission Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) Claus Sorensen (L) and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter attend a humanitarian forum for Syrian held at the United Nations Office on February 19, 2013 in Geneva. (AFP Photo / Fabrice Coffrini)

However, so far there are no alternatives to the Geneva Communique in overcoming this dangerously protracted crisis. Russia is of the view that the immediate cessation of all violence and bloodshed – and urgent humanitarian aid to the Syrians, including internally displaced persons and refugees – is absolutely crucial.

It is also important that any political transition provide guarantees of equal rights for all ethnic and religious groups. As always, Russia strongly believes that the future of Syria should be decided by the Syrians themselves, without any external interference or the imposition of ready-made recipes. As to the key external players, they should provide maximum support to the Syrians, guided by the fundamental principles of international law and the UN Charter.

Russia fully supports the mission of Special Representative Brahimi, who is committed to providing the necessary assistance to all factions in Syrian, both the opposition and the government, guided by the provisions of the Geneva Communique. Russia expects the same from its international partners.

Speaking at a January 13 press conference in Chernovtsy, Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed: “The Geneva Communique should be implemented without any preliminary conditions. So far, there has been no accord to that effect among all the Syrian sides and external players. Our partners insist that, as a preliminary condition, President Assad must be excluded from the political process. However, this condition is absent from the Geneva Communique and is impossible to implement, for it depends on no one.”

“The President of Syria took the initiative to invite all opposition to a dialogue,” Lavrov said. “Perhaps, these steps may not be very far-sighted and one might consider them futile, but still, the proposal has been made. Were I in the opposition, I would put forward a counter-proposal on the ways of establishing a dialogue.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.