Syrian Peace Talks are Stalling More than Syrian Opposition

Night Watch
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Posted: Feb 13, 2014 12:01 AM
Syrian Peace Talks are Stalling More than Syrian Opposition

South Korea-North Korea: South Korea's Unification Ministry said today that officials in Seoul and Pyongyang "have agreed to hold a senior-level meeting at Panmunjomon Wednesday."North Korea requested the meeting.

The senior-level government talks will include "senior officials from the South's National Defense Ministry, Unification Ministry. The Deputy National Security Advisor in the Presidential Office leads the South's delegation.

A senior North Korean official who is described as a specialist in inter-Korean affairs leads the North Korean delegation but its composition otherwise has not been reported in open sources.Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-Do said that "although no agenda has been set, the talks will involve 'discussions on major inter-Korean issues."

During this Watch, news services confirmed the talks took place, but reported not details..

Comment: This is the first meeting of senior officials since 2007.In the context of the North's carrot and stick tactics, this looks like the meeting where both come together and the North conveys its reaction to the notification of the Allied exercises. The NightWatch hypothesis is the North will make an urgent direct appeal to the South to cancel the Allied exercises.

If that or something similar to that does not occur, the charm offensive may be considered more genuine than it otherwise appears.

China: Senior Communist and Nationalist Chinese officials met in Nanjing for two hours in a gesture that some commentators described as a step toward a more open political dialogue. They discussed an exchange of official offices, a need to improve the atmosphere for journalists and Taiwan's application to join the Trans-Pacific partnership, a trading group.

Comment: The timing and optics are the significance of this meeting.The timing and optics work together to show solidarity against the United States and Southeast Asian states over China's claim to own most of the South China Sea.

Less than a week after the US rejected China's claim, the Chinese showed that the Nationalists and Communists are united on this issue, even if it was not discussed. In other words, the implied message is that the US cannot count on the Nationalist government on Taiwan for political support, access to ports and airfields or to logistic facilities in countering the Chinese claims.

Otherwise the issues they discussed could be discussed anywhere at a more congenial time of year.

Syria: In Geneva, peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition are not making much progress,according to Lakhdar Brahimi, the international mediator. Bothpartiesdescribed the talks asfruitless.

Brahimi told a news conference the second round of talks so far was as "laborious" as the first, last month. "We are not making much progress," he said.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Tuesday was a "lost day. "Opposition spokesman Louay Safi said "no progress" had been made.Both sides said the agenda had still not been agreed.

Comment: The talks are stalled over the agenda and are likely to remain so. The opposition wants to discuss plans for a transitional government without Asad.The government insiststhe first issue must be fighting terrorism. The opposition denies it engages in terrorism.

Western denunciations of the Asad government are no substitute for progress on the battlefield, which the Damascus government is making slowly. The opposition apparently wants to be rewarded with political concessionsfor its battlefield failures.

The predicate for these talks would be comical, but for the killings.Asad might not be clearly winning, but he also is not clearly losing. There are manySyrian oppositions and they fight each other as much as the government.

Thus, it is not clear whom the opposition delegation represents, if anyone, except the expatriate community and certain Western diplomats.The West and the professional Syrian expatriate talkers are negotiating with themselves because they can't force Asad out and he has no reasons to leave.Under these conditions, discussion of a transitional government is risible.

The most important question is how will the Russians behave towards Syria and other Middle Eastern issues after a successful Olympics, assuming they conclude without a disaster.

South Sudan:Update.The peace talks appear to be on hold as threatened.This seems to set conditions for another Ugandan and South Sudan offensive.

End of NightWatch

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