Press TV has interviewed Jeffrey Steinberg, a senior editor of Executive Intelligence Review, about recent developments regarding the Syrian peace talks.
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: What do you believe is behind this? Do you think it is asBashar al-Jaafari said that the Saudis, the Qataris as well as the Turks have told the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to step aside?
Steinberg: I think that it is probably more complicated than that. The expectation coming from Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, from US Secretary of State Kerry and from Mr. de Mistura was that this would be the beginning of a process that was going to be long and difficult, there would be a lot of bumps along the way and so I think it is premature to draw any major conclusions.
Quite clearly, the Saudis, the Qataris, the Turks and the various rebel factions that they are backing attempted to lay down preconditions before the talks even started. They wanted a thorough halt to the military operations, the fight against ISIS (Daesh), al-Nusra and some of the other rebel groups as a precondition for the talks and that was not part of the UN Security Council resolution that is the basis for these talks and quite frankly what the Saudis and company are worried about is that the Syrian armed forces backed up by the Russians are making enormous headway on the ground and the prospects of a collapse of the various rebel forces is something that is becoming more and more imminent.
So they were hoping to get as the first step a ceasefire when the Security Council resolution clearly says the first step is to work towards a ceasefire but to get certain humanitarian corridors open right away.
So I think that everybody is going back home to consider their positions. I believe that the UN mandate is clear and that both Lavrov and Kerry are committed to seeing this thing through. So this is the beginning of a long process.
Press TV: You say it is the beginning of a long process but it certainly seems like unless the Saudis, the Qataris and Turks step aside from interfering, that this will be an even longer process than necessary?
Steinberg: That is why I say I think that we may very well find that if they keep stalling on the diplomatic process that they are going to wind up being ultimately the big losers because facts on the ground will change rather dramatically.
There is a noose being tightened around the Aleppo area by the Syrian government with Russian air support. The Kurds are playing a role in working to seal off the Turkish border and ironically there is both US and Russian assistance to various of the Kurdish factions and if Aleppo and Lattakia and Homs which has already [fallen] to the government and Damascus are in the hands of the Syrian government, that is almost 90 percent of the entire population left in the country.
So I think that the pressure on the Saudis and Turkey is to face the reality that diplomacy is their best option at this point and whether they are smart enough to come to that conclusion is yet to be seen.