Pessimism seems to prevail in the talks between Syrian government and opposition negotiations held in Geneva this week, with Arab media focusing on statements by special UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi expressing little hope of a breakthrough.
“Brahimi: We are looking for a glimmer of light in a dark tunnel and failure is always before our eyes,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, featuring a photo of the Syrian envoy at the negotiating table in Geneva on Thursday surrounded by Russians and Americans.
“Brahimi’s frustration was evident during a press conference he held yesterday afternoon,” comments the paper. “Even though the two-hour meeting in Geneva ended with no tangible results, Brahimi received support from the Americans and Russians for the negotiating process.”
Focusing on the cup being half-full, London-based daily Al-Hayat leads with the headline: “Brahimi: a Russian-American promise to solve the bind,” featuring a photo of civilians in Aleppo fleeing government shelling on Thursday.
“Syrian negotiations in Geneva are reaching a dead-end,” reads the headline of an article on the website of Al-Jazeera, a Qatari news channel. The channel quotes Syrian opposition sources as saying that talks will likely collapse on Friday, amid Russian accusations of the West that it is too focused on toppling the regime.
London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, also focusing on the positive, reports that Brahimi was able to wrestle an agreement between the government and opposition on four points to be discussed in the next round of talks.
According to the daily, the next meeting will deal with an end to violence and terrorism; the creation of a transitional government; continuation or change in government institutions; and the implementation of reconciliation and dialogue. The regime’s delegation, the article reports, objected to the word “change” in the third point, but was overruled by Brahimi.
The overall pessimism of the news emanating from Geneva is also reflected in an op-ed by A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Abdul Rahman Rashed on Friday. Rashed primarily blames the US for failing to exert sufficient pressure — be it diplomatic or military — on the Assad regime.
“Everyone in Geneva is negotiating with no appetite or hope. The regime’s team came only to ruin the summit aimed at removing its president Bashar Assad and replacing him with a transitional government. Negotiations will fail because there is no real pressure exerted on the government in Damascus to accept a political solution, and there’s no military support to topple it if it refused,” writes Rashed.
If negotiations fail, Rashed concludes, violence will continue to spill over into Iraq, Lebanon “and perhaps Turkey.”
Meanwhile, like Assad, Iraq is also fighting al-Qaeda
Arab media is following a military offensive by the Iraqi army against the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“The Iraqi army banishes ISIL from a town in the north,” reads the headline of an article on the website of Al-Arabiya, a Dubai-based news channel. The article reports that the Islamists were forced to retreat from the town of Sulaiman Bek in the Salaheddin province.
Elaph, a Saudi-owned news website, reports that the Iraqi military operation began on Friday, backed by army aircraft and tanks after ISIL declared the area an Islamic emirate. The site reports that fighting in the town is ongoing, with armed Islamists fighting the army from rooftops. So far, 15 ISIL fighters have been reported dead by the Iraqi government.