(Foreign Affairs) (Article co-authored by Samuel Charap and Jeremy Shapiro) Later this month, the United States, Russia, key regional states, and other members of the international community will attend the Geneva II peace conference. In Washington, the debate rages on between the skeptics, who dismiss the conference as a hopeless endeavor, and the optimists, who see it as a genuine peace process that could resolve the Syrian crisis. Both sides are missing the point.
It is hard to dispute the skeptics’ argument that the time is not right for a comprehensive agreement between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels fighting his regime. Neither party is ready to give up on victory, and both sides’ regional sponsors continue to support, fund, and arm them. But peace is not the right benchmark by which to judge Geneva II. Historically, ending civil wars has involved long and difficult negotiations that, at best, very gradually create the conditions for lasting peace.
Yes, Geneva II will likely fail to produce a settlement to the Syrian conflict. But the United States should take steps to ensure it fails in a way that furthers peace. At the same time, the United States and Russia can improve the prospects for peace by establishing a round of negotiations among the regional sponsors of the warring Syrian parties. […]
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