Who's who at Geneva II: The lowdown on the Syrian conference everyone's talking about
There's been quite the build-up -- false starts, pullouts, rumors, political intrigue and rampant speculation, to and fro-ing on the million dollar question 'to attend or to skip?,' and deciding "what it all means" in the end.
The days leading up to the highly-anticipated Geneva 2 peace talks have been one heck of a roller coaster ride. On January 22 in Montreux, Switzerland, major world powers will finally come together to discuss a topic that has divided the international community for 34 months - the Syrian civil war.
Put forward by the U.S. and Russia in 2013, there were doubts that between the ongoing violence in Syria and the ideological opposition between Damascus and the opposition, that Geneva 2 would even happen. There’s been scandal and international outrage, but it’s finally taking place, and some are hoping it may herald in a new era of peace in war-torn Syria.
The conflict - which began in March 2011 as peaceful pro-democracy protests - has deteriorated into an all-out sectarian war that has spilled into Syria’s neighbours and puts the entire region at risk. Ban Ki-moon has previously that the Geneva conference would be "a mission of hope", adding that it was "unforgivable not to seize this opportunity" to end the bloodshed that has left thousands of dead and millions displaced.
As expected, however, drama has plagued the talks before they’ve even begun - with Iran being the centre of this trouble making. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made an international boo-boo on Monday when he extended a Geneva invitation to Iran, a staunch ally of Damascus and a trusty supplier of fighters and arms to the conflict. There soon was a global uproar from those behind the opposition, saying that Tehran should not have been allowed to take part due to their lack of support for a transitional Syrian government. With Iran ignoring the invitation, it was quickly rescinded by the U.N. - but not before the Syrian opposition threatened to boycott the talks. With the Iran invitation off the table and the opposition placated, things have now settled and the world is looking to see what will come out of the conference.
The stakes are high at Geneva 2 - but can the Syrian crisis be solved by diplomats in Geneva when fighters on the ground have already pledged to ignore its outcomes?
Hassan Aboud, leader of the powerful Ahrar Al Sham rebels refuses to pay any attention to the conference: “We see Geneva as a tool of manipulation,” he told Al Jazeera. Similarly, head of the fearsome Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Al Nusra Abu Mohammad Al Golani touched on the dichotomy between those who will attend the talks and those fighting on the ground in Syria: “Those taking part in the conference do not represent the people who have sacrificed and shed blood”.
Even if militants on the ground may not take heed of the outcomes of Geneva, there’s no doubt that those in attendance could have a real impact on the conflict - some of the most powerful governments in the world will be sitting down to hash it out in Switzerland. Thirty countries - not including Syria’s two attending opposing delegations - will be there.
Will it deliver solutions or just prove to be a talking shop and power stand-off? The heat is on.
Dive in to this gallery-snapshot of the major players attending the Geneva talks.