Frederic C. Hof, senior fellow for the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, writes in the Financial Times on the upcoming Syria peace talks in Geneva:
Syria’s 23m people have little to gain from the talks that are scheduled to begin in Switzerland on Wednesday. Until the Assad regime agrees to unimpeded access for UN humanitarian aid workers, there will be no basis for dialogue and compromise. Yet Russia and Iran show no sign of applying the kind of pressure that could persuade the Assads to agree to a truce.
The conflict in Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe. Bashar al-Assad’s regime behaves as if the chemical weapons agreement brokered by the US and Russia last September was a permission slip for atrocities that do not involve chemical weapons. The regime is bombing and shelling populations where it thinks rebel fighters may be present. Millions of Syrians have abandoned their homes in sheer terror. Tens of thousands have been killed. Neighbouring countries are swamped with refugees. Russia and Iran could oblige their client to stop committing such crimes against humanity. They have not.