Successful peace conferences about ongoing conflicts have always started with talks. Montreux in Switzerland was the venue for initial peace talks and a transition plan for Syria involving opposing sides in the Syrian civil war.
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But this was bound to fail as it began with the Syrian government and its main political opposition, the National Coalition, taking entrenched positions. If two conflicting parties really want peace – not just the total surrender of the other party – then talk and compromises are necessary.
Montreux, chaired by the United Nations, included a host of quite unrelated parties and opened with speeches from some 40 foreign ministers. But those parties intimately involved in Syria – such as the Kurds – are not included. Some actively involved, such as neighbours Saudi Arabia, have been welcomed to the talks while others, such as Iran, have been excluded.
Unrelated neutral parties are needed to monitor a compromise and, as in soccer, there is a need for more players than referees.
The three-year conflict has seen 100,000 killed and millions displaced.
The objective of the summit, it appears, to be the removal of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, rather than a long-term peace for all sections of the Syrian population including all religious and ethnic minorities.