Can the Geneva meeting on Syria accomplish anything?
Kofi Annan, the UN special envoy to Syria, says he is 'optimistic' the emergency meeting on Syria will yield results, but the parties involved have already staked out some irreconcilable demands.
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Middle East Editor
Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog.
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The prospects for the emergency meeting on Syria slated to begin tomorrow looked dim Friday, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad saying that his country's war is an "internal issue which has nothing to do with foreign countries."
The United Nations Security Council members and Turkey are gathering in Geneva to discuss UN and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan's plan for an interim unity government for Syria. Yet BBC reports that Mr. Assad said in an interview with Iranian state TV, broadcast yesterday, that "foreign pressure will not have an influence on our stance. We have been under pressure for a long time, and it did not have an effect in the past, and it will not have any influence in the future." The interview was recorded last week.
The red lines set out by Assad, the opposition, and foreign powers may scuttle Mr. Annan's plan before the meeting even begins. The opposition has said it will not stand for a government that retains Assad, while Russia, whose opposition to international action against the regime has been the key obstacle since the conflict began, announced in would not endorse a transition plan that required Assad to step down.
According to the BBC, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday: "We will not support and cannot support any meddling from outside or any imposition of recipes. This also concerns the fate of the president of the country, Bashar al-Assad."
Despite the seemingly irreconcilable positions, Annan said today that he is "optimistic" that the Geneva talks would end with acceptable progress, and dismissed news reports suggesting that the gap between Russia and the rest of the parties at the meeting is too large to bridge, according to The New York Times. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that it was "very clear" that all the parties to the meeting are on board with Annan's proposal, according to the Associated Press.