Diplomatic Fallout: Has Promise of Peace Talks Made Syria War Worse?

Diplomatic Fallout: Has Promise of Peace Talks Made Syria War Worse?

Will the Syrian government and its opponents ever sit down for negotiations in Geneva? It has been more than a month since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced plans for a peace conference in the Swiss city. There were suggestions that the meeting could happen in May or June. But it has been pushed back repeatedly, while Russia and the U.S. appear to be edging closer to a full-scale proxy war in Syria. The promise of talks in Geneva may even have made the conflict worse.

When Kerry met Lavrov in Moscow in early May, Kerry needed to save diplomacy over Syria from imminent collapse. The Obama administration was under mounting pressure to arm the rebels in response to reports that pro-government forces had used chemical weapons. Lakhdar Brahimi, despairing after eight months’ service as envoy to Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League, had declared his intention to resign. The Geneva talks proposal made it look like there was a last hope for a peace deal.

This was enough to keep Brahimi on board. But it also created perverse incentives for other, more powerful, players to escalate the conflict. If there was even a minimal chance of real negotiations backed by Moscow and Washington, all parties wanted to secure the strongest negotiating positions possible before talks began.

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