Leaders meet for second Syria talks in Vienna

US Secretary of State John Kerry, Turkish and Saudi Foreign Ministers and Western diplomats meet with Russian and Iranian counterparts in second Syrian talks in Vienna, Austria

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

(From left) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu stand together before a meeting in Vienna, Austria on October 29 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry, Turkish Foreign Ministers, their Saudi counterpart, along with Western diplomats have gathered with Russia and its regional supporters, including Iran for talks over Syria’s future on Thursday and Friday in Vienna.

The talks in Vienna is the first time Iran and Saudi Arabia - regional rivals who have been divided in critical role during the ongoing Syria war - have met around the same table, since the clashes broken out in Syria in March 2011.

Tehran and Moscow are both essential in their support for Assad's government, while Turkey, the United States, Saudi Arabia and their Western and Gulf allies are against the Syria regime.

Iran has not shown any signal that may indicate a change in stance over Assad. A senior Iranian official told Reuters that "there was no candidate to replace Assad, describing him as the only one who can prevent Syria from collapse," and added that it was necessary to assist Assad in his fight against militants, who have captured large parts of Syria and Iraq.

During the meeting on Friday they will discuss the existence of the Syrian regime leader, Bashar al Assad, who recently said that he is ready for fresh elections and rejects demands that include giving up his power.

Foreign ministers from the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Turkey had gathered for the first meeting in Vienna on Friday, last week, to discuss the situation in Syria and to define strategies to support the so-called "political transition.” However, they failed to reach an agreement over the political situation of Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad.

The UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura said late on Thursday, the Friday meeting on Syria is an opportunity not to be a missing.

“Now what will happen tomorrow I can't tell you but the very fact that this meeting is taking place with all those countries in the same small room to talk about a political process for Syria is really a great signal," De Mistura told Reuters TV during an interview.

“Without a parallel political creative concrete substantive transformative type of governance in Syria, we will not be able to end this conflict and certainly will not be able to fight and win DAESH," he added.

The war in Syria has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions displaced

Syrian oppositions not invited in Vienna summit

Syrian opposition's main political body and the representatives of the armed opposition on the ground were not invited to the international talks in Vienna, concerning their country.

Following Iran accepted the invitation to the talks, the opposition expressed they would still be present in the talks if invited, in spite of their reservation over the presence of Iran at the table.

Bashar al Zoubi of the Yarmouk Army, a group affiliated to the Free Syrian Army told Reuters that "Iran is part of the problem and not the solution, and its participation in the meeting will prove that to the world," he later added. "This meeting was accepted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey to expose Iran."

Anti-Assad Syrian National Council (SNC) said Iran's participation in the talks would undermine the political process. "Iran has only one project - to keep Assad in power... they don't believe in the principle of the talks," the coalition's Vice-President Hisham Marwa said on Thursday.

Syrian officials against Western plan on Syria crisis

Ali Haidar, leader of Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs announced that they would not consider the Western countries plan on the future of Syria.

He said that "we will not launch the political transition as the West plans. We will only start this process on certain conditions, which include opening dialogues between Syrians and reaching consensus on a range of issues.”

“We need to amend the constitution and the law and hold the election based on the new constitution, or discuss about whether to hold an early election. All this should be carried out by Syrians on the premise of Syria’s sovereignty and autonomy."

Al Dubeit neighbourhood in Idlib city on April 5 2015

Mahmoud Marais, Secretary General of National Democratic Action Committee of Syria also indicated that "we must reach a political solution, because air strikes or other military operations cannot solve Syria's crisis. We must open dialogues and pursue a political settlement. There must be dialogue and consultations between Syrians. That's the only way to end the crisis."

On the other hand, with Friday marking the 30th day of Russia's air strikes in Syria, analysts reported the ongoing operations have helped Assad’s security forces against opositions.

"Russia has so far conducted more than 1,200 rounds of air raids in Syria, striking over 1,000 militant positions. That means almost 30 to 40 percent of their facilities have been destroyed," declared Thabet Mohammad, a former officer of the Syrian Army.

Russia began its aerial campaign over Syria on Sept. 30, initially saying it would be targeting positions held by the DAESH terrorist group, but concerns were raised when it appeared that the majority of Russian air strikes were targeting the Syrian opposition fighting against Bashar al Assad’s regime. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Russian warplanes of hitting civilian targets in western Syria - claiming dozens of innocent lives, adding that the act amounts to a war crime.

The war in Syria has, to date, claimed the lives of an estimated 250,000 people, most of whom were killed by regime air strikes and indiscriminate barrel bombings from helicopters on civilian areas.

Approximately half the country’s population has been displaced, with an estimated 6.7 million people seeking refuge elsewhere in Syria and 5 million moving into neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

This year alone, around half a million refugees, mostly Syrians, have entered Europe, hoping to gain asylum in economically well-off EU countries.

TRTWorld and agencies