Daily VideoJanuary 23, 2014
Tension high on first day of Syrian peace talks
Yesterday, for the first time since the country’s civil war began in 2011, the Syrian government and the nation’s opposition groups sat in the same room. However, the first day of peace negotiations was marked by infighting and acrimony as the two sides held their battle lines.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry maintained Washington’s long-held position that the aim of this conference was to carry out the so-called Geneva I communique of 2012.
The communique laid out a six-point plan to resolve the situation, including, “The establishment of a transitional governing body which can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place… It could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.”
“Bashar Assad will not be part of that transition government,” said Kerry. “There is no way, no way possible in the imagination that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern. One man and those who have supported him can no longer hold an entire nation and a region hostage.”
This position was supported by other members of the international community, including Saudi Arabia and Syria’s opposition movement.
“It is common sense that Bashar al-Assad will have no role in a transitional government or any of those whose hands have been stained by blood,” said Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister.
However, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem objected to foreign powers determining the future leadership of Syria, saying, “No one in the world has the right to give or take legitimacy to a president or government or constitution or law or anything in Syria, except for the Syrians themselves.”
At one point, tensions were on display when al-Moallem ran far over his allotted speaking time, then continued to interrupt Ban Ki-Moon when told to stop talking.
“You spoke 25 minutes. At least I need to speak 30 minutes,” he said.
The actual negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition begin on Friday at the U.N.’s headquarters in Geneva.
Warm up questions
- Why was there a meeting in Geneva? What was the topic being discussed? Who was and who wasn’t invited?
- Who are the major players in the Syrian civil war both inside and outside of Syria? Use the infographic below to help students sort out the complex relationships within the conflict
- What goal did the group of nations attending the talks hope to accomplish?
- Read the transcript below and then in your own words explain what John Kerry said and what he believes is the right diplomatic step.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Bashar Assad will not be part of that transition government. There is no way, no way possible in the imagination that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern. One man and those who have supported him can no longer hold an entire nation and a region hostage.
- Describe how the meeting went and what emotions were present.
- Did the meeting accomplish the outcomes they had hoped for?
- What should the next step be in the efforts to end the civil war? More diplomacy? Should countries get more involved militarily?
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