Who's who at Geneva II: The lowdown on the Syrian conference everyone's talking about

Published January 21st, 2014 - 14:51 GMT

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Image 1 of 8: Damascus: The regime that could end it all. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Muallem will head up the government’s delegation, which will also be made up of key government figures. Unlikely to give up much ground, Assad’s removal from office is likely to be a point of contention in this party.

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Image 1 of 8: The Opposition: Headed by Ahmad Jarba, the Syrian National Coalition will be bringing 15 members to represent the opposition, including two Syrian Kurds. Plagued by internal conflict, some opposition members withdrew from the talks before they began because they disagree with negotiating with the regime.

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Image 1 of 8: The U.S.: Having helped set up the talks, the U.S. is bound to play a key role in Montreux. Having been on the brink of declaring war after August’s chemical weapons attack, the Obama administration came under fire for being all bark and no bite. This is their time to push forward reconciliation and prove they are a superpower.

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Image 1 of 8: Russia: At ideological loggerheads with the U.S., Moscow will be a powerful tool for Damascus. Headed by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s delegation is bound to cause some controversy as a backer of Assad. With many governments in attendance (Qatar, KSA) who have provided military assistance to the rebels, things could get interesting.

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Image 1 of 8: Jordan: Struggling with the huge flow of Syrian refugees that have crossed into the Kingdom since 2011, Jordan is taking the outcomes of Geneva seriously. They’ve already issued a statement urging the international community to stay true to whatever conclusions are reached at the conference and is sure to push forward the regional issues.

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Image 1 of 8: Saudi Arabia: In staunch opposition to Syria and a spendthrift ally of the rebels, Riyadh will be pushing for a new Syrian order - and one that’s NOT headed by Assad. With some KSA financial help winding up in militant hands, Saudi has tried to stop fighters going to Syria - and will no doubt be looking for a way to end the war and save face.

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Image 1 of 8: Lebanon: Beirut has been shaken up by the Syrian war - Hezbollah backs Assad's regime but the government opposes it. As Syria’s spillover has caused violence and fatalities in Tripoli, a peaceful and easy end to the conflict - and one that will protect the 1.4 million refugees living in Lebanon - will be on top of the to-do list in Switzerland.

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Image 1 of 8: Iran: Tehran will NOT be in attendance after the U.N. hastily rescinded their invitation after an international outcry. Ban Ki-moon got some serious grief for the invite over Iran’s failure to back any transitional Syrian regime. With Iranian fighters propping up Assad and a firm alliance, Iran would have no doubt stirred up trouble.

 

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.

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Anonymous (not verified) Tue, 01/21/2014 - 15:47

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