The Syrian government’s new-found willingness to participate “in principle” in an international conference on the Syrian conflict hosted by Russia and the United States may result in everyone showing up for the talks. But don’t bet the farm on it.
Tough obstacles remain, including preconditions that both sides will insist upon before they walk through the conference room doors in Geneva. For example, the fate of President Bashar al-Assad and his lieutenants, the combat situation, and the status of arms shipments to either government or rebel forces will loom heavily over any final terms of reference for starting the peace talks.
Leverage to stop the carnage in Syria has been lacking in over two years of futile diplomacy with the Bashar al-Assad regime. But there is one tactic that both Russia and the United States can use in the UN Security Council to facilitate the talks.
The Russians have long resisted strong Security Council action on Syria. But Moscow might see the advantage to be gained by approving a Council resolution that refers the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court, albeit conditionally.