Syria peace talks begin

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

HIGH-LEVEL delegations from all the major powers landed in Switzerland this week for the start of talks aimed at ending the violence in Syria, which has racked the country for the past two years. But whether they will succeed is extremely doubtful given the efforts of the imperialist camp to sabotage the international conference before it even began.

The Syrian negotiating team’s flight was held in Athens for hours waiting to be refuelled following a claim that this was a breach of European Union sanctions against Syria. A last-minute United Nations invitation to Iran to join the Geneva talks was hurriedly withdrawn following objections from the United States and the rest of the imperialist pack and the western media was flooded with more reports of alleged Syrian army atrocities compiled by one of the major backers of the Syrian rebel movements.

Inside Syria the armed forces are continuing their drive to crush the rebel militias who are increasingly fighting amongst themselves to gain control of the cash and guns flowing in from Nato via Turkey and the feudal Arab oil princes. This has helped the Syrian army regain control of more of the provincial capital of Aleppo, including the international airport, which was closed in January 2013 but resumed flights this week.

The delegations have now arrived for the talks, known as Geneva II, which opened in Montreux on Wednesday, and will resume in Geneva on Friday. The talks, sponsored by Russia and the United States, have brought together delegations from the Syrian government and some of the rebel groups, to end the humanitarian crisis, halt the fight and create the framework for the establishment of a transitional government in Syria.

Meanwhile the imperialist lie machine went into top gear this week to revile President Assad and renew calls for his immediate resignation. On the eve of the talks the bourgeois media were plastered with reports and images of more alleged atrocities and claims that 11,000 detainees had been tortured and killed by the Syrian army and security forces during their campaign to crush the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaida rebels over the past two years.

But a Syrian government spokesperson said the report had no credibility as it was commissioned by Qatar, which funds the rebel Muslim fundamentalist militias. Bassam Abu Abdullah, questioned the report’s evidence, saying it was unclear where the information had come from or if the photographs were “from Syria or from outside Syria” and “if Qatar financed this report, there is no credibility because Qatar is one of the states who financed international terrorism and who sent killers to Syria”.

This view was shared by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who said one must distinguish between genuine, verifiable atrocities and products of an information war, adding that some western media outlets peddle brazen lies in their reports.

“We need to realise that war crimes are being committed by both sides and as we can deduce from those briefings and reports which were made in Geneva by the UN Human Rights Commissioner, the most brutal atrocities are committed by jihadists. But of course, those who commit war crimes are responsible for it, and this is the principle which has been enshrined in the Geneva communiqué and UN documents,” Lavrov declared. Some 55,000 images, purporting to have been taken by a defecting Syrian military police photographer code-named “Caesar”, were distributed by the Qatari government, whose feudal Arab rulers are the pawns of US imperialism who have bankrolled the anti-Assad terror gangs from the start of the Nato-backed rebellion in March 2011.

Syria’s Baathist- (Arab Socialist Renaissance Party) led popular front government has stressed that it isn’t going to Geneva to hand over the power, but to negotiate with the opposition to find a solution to the crisis. It also said that the peace talks must focus on combating terrorism in Syria, while the Nato-backed opposition wants the conference to lead to the formation of a transitional government without any role for President Bashar al-Assad.

In a gesture of goodwill the Assad government says it is ready to discuss partial ceasefires and prisoner exchanges with the rebel militias. But it has ruled out any talk of President Bashar al Assad standing down or withdrawing from the next presidential election this year.