UNDERWHELMED: Syrians from across rebel-held Syria express differing yet largely dismissive views of the Geneva II conference in an informal poll on Monday.
“Neither the regime nor the opposition will implement [anything],” says a man standing among olive groves in Idlib. “The regime – impossible. Impossible that it will implement anything that it says.”
The Syrian regime and its opposition have met for the first face-to-face talks in nearly three years at Geneva, but the opposition’s hopes to form a transitional government without Bashar al-Assad are leagues apart from the government’s desire to stay in place and shift the focus to fighting terrorism in Syria.
“I hope Geneva II will bring a peaceful, constructive decision for this country,” say a female teacher in Aleppo province, standing in a classroom.
“We don’t care about Geneva I, II, III, nor do we care about Geneva X,” said an opposition fighter, posing with a pointed rifle. “Our only concern is taking down the regime, then we will drop our weapons and return to our normal lives.”
“Geneva I, II, III, no problem, [just] take them [the regime] away from us,” said an elderly displaced woman living in a refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border.
On Sunday, U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi announced the two sides had reached a verbal decision to allow women and children to evacuate besieged Old Homs, and to further negotiate a proposal to allow an aid convoy into those neighborhoods that have been under a total blockade for more than 600 days.
The agreement is falling apart as the regime remains firm in its unwillingness to open a humanitarian corridor, even as the United Nations’ World Food Program announced its convoy was prepared to enter.
The conference has thus far been marked by tension and awkward confrontations. At one point, a pro-opposition journalist asked Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi about barrel bombs 16 consecutive times. Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem had a terse exchange with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and on Tuesday morning the U.S. Department of State lambasted the Syrian government for “preposterous” behavior.