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‘The Iranian-Saudi dialogue is necessary to find a solution for Syria and the entire Middle East’

Without Iranian and Saudi participation in talks on Syria, we will continue with small agreements which probably will be difficult to implement on the ground, Paolo Raffone, Middle East expert, told RT.

RT:This agreement in Geneva looks like a breakthrough, but do the opposition delegates have the authority to make sure civilians are given safe passage by the rebels?

Paolo Raffone: That’s a very good question because as we know the opposition in Syria is fragmented and it is not at all sure that those who have convened in Geneva for these talks [will] be able to transform decisions into action on the ground. It is clear that the situation in Geneva has been a step forward in the sense that the conference didn’t collapsed. On the other hand, almost all experts agree that to find a durable and sustainable solution in Syria it is necessary to start dialogue with other two parties, which are Iran and Saudi Arabia, which are in fact both influencing the fate of Iran.

RT:What about the thousands of jihadists who are fighting on the frontlines in Syria? Does anyone have the power to make them respect any agreements reached in Geneva?

PR: Certainly Saudi Arabia may have a strong influence on the attitude if it determines that it is time to stop financing them. That’s why the Iranian-Saudi dialogue is necessary to find this solution for Syria. Otherwise, we will continue with small agreements which probably will be difficult to be implemented on the ground.

RT:The main stumbling block still ahead in Geneva is the future role of President Assad. Is there any room for compromise on this?

PR: Probably that has been raised by those members of the opposition who have been participating in the talks, but this cannot be made at this stage. The issue of Assad is a part of a larger geopolitical game. As I said, there are two major players, Iran and Saudi Arabia, which should be brought to the table and they should agree among themselves in order to find a political solution for the entire Middle East.

RT:Presidential elections are due in Syria later this year. Can they really be free and fair under such conditions?

PR: It is highly improbable because the situation on the ground is such that how can we believe that free elections can be held in a country which is in a civil war?

RT:All this is happening while Syria is busy dismantling its chemical arsenal. Is that process on track to be completed by June?

PR: For the part concerning chemical armament under the government control probably yes; for the other arms, which are under control of different groups, I think it [will] be very difficult to get hold of them.

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

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