Media disheartened by Geneva II talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) listens to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon prior to peace talks in Montreux Image copyright Getty Images

Media in the countries with a close interest in the Syrian conflict are generally unimpressed by the first day of the Geneva II peace conference.

Some feel that nothing will be achieved by the talks because the parties' aims are too far apart.

Many of the commentators on both sides of the issue are troubled by the continuing humanitarian crisis in Syria.


The Syrian media echo the regime's defiant stance. The ruling party's daily al-Ba'th declares: "Let them stay on their high horses. Let them use the dirtiest political weapons to achieve what they failed to achieve through terrorism."

The paper goes on to repeat Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem's comment that only Syrians can give legitimacy to the president or government in Syria.

State-run Syrian TV's morning news also makes this point early in the bulletin. It also says that the conference brings nothing new. "The scene is divided between two parties: the first carries the hopes and pain of the Syrian people, the second is the official mouthpiece of armed terrorist groups," it declares.


The media in Iran, one of Syria's staunchest regional allies, is firmly behind Damascus. State-run IRINN TV in its early bulletin notes that among the invitees, 10 countries are Syria's enemies.

Iranian press commentators are equally downbeat, suggesting that given the differences among the participants, a positive outcome for the Syrian people is impossible.

Reformist E'temad blames the opposing stances of Washington and Moscow on the Syrian issue.

Ahmad Kazemzadeh, writing in Javan, lashes out at the "concern" of "the USA and its Western and Arabic allies". "They have been sparing no efforts to destroy Syria over the past three years", he states.


Another conference-goer is Russia, which has been backing the Syrian regime from the start of the uprising. The Russian media pundits believe that day one of the meeting has shown they failed to overcome major disagreements. Pavel Tarasenko points this out in the daily Kommersant, adding that the "key one of them is the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad".

Yuriy Paniyev writing in daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta takes comfort from the fact that the meeting is taking place at all. "The successful attempt to make the government and the opposition sit down at the negotiating table may be seen as one of the achievements of Geneva 2. Direct discussions will probably result in suspending the hostilities."


The US media have taken some interest in the conference, reflecting both the knowledge that Washington is a player in the Middle East and the worry that the US may become involved in Syria militarily.

A headline in The New York Times sums up the first day's proceedings as: "Syrian peace talks open with vitriol, as official rails at rebels."

The influential Washington Post, however, takes the Obama administration to task over its policy on Syria, pointing out that it was all very well for John Kerry to refer to the Syrian regime's "systematic torture and execution of thousands of prisoners", but that "the diplomatic initiative that Mr Kerry launched offers no means to hold the regime of Bashar al-Assad accountable for these atrocities, or even to stop them".

"On the contrary", the paper fears, "it may serve to prop up the Assad government by treating it as a legitimate party to negotiations about Syria's future."

Qatar, Saudi Arabia

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are both well known for their support of the Syrian opposition groups, albeit different ones.

An article on Qatar-funded al-Jazeera TV's website by Randa Slim suggests that Foreign Minister Muallem "can say all he wants about... red lines... he knows that the mere fact of his presence at negotiations organised according to the Geneva I political framework means that the train for the Assad family's exit has left the station".

Ghassan Sharbal, writing in Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, believes the first message from the talks is that "there will be no solution in Syria apart from a political one".

However, he says that "no-one in Montreux expects that a solution is imminent or that it will be reached soon".

Fellow daily al-Sharq al-Awsat is very downbeat. "It will be a miracle if the 'Geneva 2' results in an interim government or if Assad steps down. Nothing will definitely happen," it complains.


Turkey is another backer of the rebel cause and the conference on Syria is a major media topic, with state-run TRT Haber referring to it as the "historic conference".

Moderate pro-Islamic Zaman feels "the first item on the agenda of this meeting must be the recently revealed savagery... of the regime and its leader in general".

Commentator Akif Emre is equally unhappy, but believes the region "including Turkey and Iran" should be in charge of stopping the violence. Writing in daily Yeni Safak, he says that "unless regional countries... take the initiative for a solution, the chit-chat about international meetings will continue. And innocent people will continue to die either from bombs or from torture!"

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

More on this story