London, Thursday 12 September 2013
- Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Kerry commenced their critical talks in Geneva on Thursday 12 September. The issue on the table is the Russian proposal on Syrian chemical weapons. However, Russian/U.S. cooperation needs to go beyond the chemical weapons issue. The aim has to be to come up with a joint plan for convening the Geneva II peace talks, bringing all the parties to the conflict and their supporters to the negotiating table.
An agreement in Geneva this week on the Russian proposal for Syria’s chemical weapons to be declared, verified, stockpiled and destroyed would be a welcome first step towards a diplomatic solution that would forestall a U.S. military strike.
However, an agreement on chemical weapons can only be a starting point. Over 100,000 people have been killed by conventional weapons. Given the superiority of President Assad’s forces in conventional weapons, the removal of the regime’s chemical weapons, would do nothing to stop the civil war. Addressing the civil war and avoiding and all out regional war is the true key, putting real premium on a Geneva II.
“The ultimate aim of going down the diplomatic route via an agreement on chemical weapons is: to negotiate a ceasefire, stop the flow of weapons into Syria and find a peaceful settlement at the planned Geneva II peace talks to end the Syrian crisis with resulting stability in the region”, says Gabrielle Rifkind, Director of Oxford Research Group’s (ORG) Middle East Programme, who has deep insight into the diplomatic process and has collaborated with Russian FM Lavrov's advisors.
She adds: “The signing of the Chemical Weapons Convention by Assad and an agreement on destroying his chemical weapons stocks can only be a mechanism – a first step in Russian-U.S. cooperation on Syria. Such collaboration is an essential means to convening the Geneva II peace process to end the Syrian civil war.”
In order to reach a political settlement at Geneva II, close diplomatic engagement would be needed: on a global level between Russia and the U.S., and on a regional level, the real players are now Iran and Saudi Arabia. Such a Geneva II discussion would finally bring all parties together. The Geneva process has stalled partly because of disagreement between the big powers.
“It is important that Secretary Kerry will meet the U.S./Arab League Syria Envoy, Dr Lakhdar Brahimi, while he is in Geneva. To also put the wider political context on the agenda is essential, if there is ever to be an end to the war in Syria”, Gabrielle Rifkind says.
NOTES TO EDITORS
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Gabrielle Rifkind, Middle East Programme Director to Oxford Research Group (ORG)
Gabrielle Rifkind is our Middle East Programme Director. She is a group analyst and specialist in conflict resolution. Gabrielle has deep insight into the Syrian diplomatic process and has collaborated closely with the parties to the conflict. She combines in-depth political and psychological expertise with many years’ experience in promoting serious analysis and dialogue. Her special areas of interest are the Middle East conflict and Iran. As a political entrepreneur, she has a deep understanding of human behaviour and motivation. Gabrielle is the convener and founder of the Middle East Policy Initiative Forum (MEPIF) and has facilitated a number of Track II roundtables in the Middle East on the Israel-Palestine conflict, as well as on the Iran conflict. Committed to understanding the mindset of the region, she has both facilitated meetings with and spent time talking to the leadership in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and ‘Western’ states. She makes regular contributions to the media and is author of a number of influential reports and books.
Gabrielle Rifkind wrote an article, published in The Times newspaper, on 7 September 2013 as a result of close collaboration with Russian FM Lavrov's advisors. She suggested - well before the U.S.-Russian agreement - that an alternative to a military strike on Syria would be the implementation of the chemical weapons treaty, or what the US and Russia are now calling for, putting Syria's stockpile of weapons under international control: One Signature by Assad Could Help to Avert the Bombing
She is currently completing a book, titled 'The Fog of Peace: The Human Face of Peace-Making', with the former senior UN diplomat and top negotiator Giandomenico Picco.
Read more about Gabrielle Rifkind.
FURTHER AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW
Professor Paul Rogers, Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group (ORG)
Paul Rogers is our Global Security Consultant and Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. He has worked in the field of international security, arms control and political violence for over 30 years. He lectures at universities and defence colleges in several countries and has written or edited 26 books. Paul writes Monthly Briefings analysing the international security situation for the Oxford Research Group and has authored many influential reports. He is a regular commentator on global security issues in national and international media.
His recent publications on Syria include:
Richard Reeve, Sustainable Security Programme Director to Oxford Research Group (ORG)
Richard Reeve is our Sustainable Security Programme Director. He works across a wide range of defence and security issues and has particular expertise in Sub-Saharan Africa, peace and conflict analysis, and the security role of regional organisations. Richard has worked with a number of organisations, including International Alert and Chatham House.
His recent publications on Syria include:
Zoë Pelter, Sustainable Security Programme Research Officer to Oxford Research Group (ORG)
Zoë Pelter is our Sustainable Security Programme Research Officer. She works on a number of projects across the programme, including Rethinking UK Defence and Security Policies and Sustainable Security and the Global South.
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