An essay by Yusef Mowlaei, an expert on international affairs
International conferences are suitable places for exchanges between representatives of countries and making decisions in international relations. The Munich Security Conference, due to its reputation and status, has provided a suitable atmosphere for dialogue between regional and extra-regional powers and a good opportunity for international players. The presence of representatives of Syria's National Coalition in this conference and the absence of representatives of the Syrian government is indicative of the fact that the developments in Syria have entered a new stage. Mr. al-Khatib, as the head of the National Coalition Council, held different meetings and negotiations with official representatives of regional and extra-regional powers. Meanwhile, his meeting and talks with the foreign ministers of Iran and the Russian Federation have created more curiosity and attracted more attention. Considering Iran and Russia's strong positions in support of the Assad government and their opposition to any foreign intervention in the domestic affairs of Syria, the mere meeting with the representative of the National Coalition can be considered as flexibility in these positions.
More important than the negotiations with Mr. al-Khatib, the promotion of the status of the National Coalition Council and acceptance of its status as having international ground are among the other interesting issues of this conference. Although more than a hundred countries have, hitherto, recognized the National Coalition Council and established diplomatic relations at different levels, meeting with the foreign ministers of Iran and Russia is very significant and is considered a turning point in the process of Syria's transition to new conditions and, of course, a positive and constructive step. As it was previously said, any initiative which could prevent more violence, bloodshed, and destruction must be welcomed as a humanitarian measure. By using their good relations with the Assad government, Iran and Russia can provide suitable conditions for national dialogue in Syria and the possibility of solving the crisis. Iran and Russia have a unique opportunity to positively and constructively impact the developments in Syria. That is why both UN representatives in Syrian affairs, Mr. Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi, have stated Iran and Russia's determining role and introduced them as part of the "solution". Lavrov's invitation of al-Khatib to visit Russia and hold serious negotiations and the occasional criticisms of Russian officials of Assad's positions indicate the fact that the Russians have maintained their previous positions based on condemning any foreign intervention in Syria's affairs.
At the same time, despite their serious opposition in the Security Council against any resolution which would prepare the grounds for military intervention, they have reached the conclusion that continuing the present situation, besides its heavy and irreparable burden on the people of Syria, is considered as a serious threat for the security and stability of the region. There is the analysis that the only option to end this crisis is to accept the National Coalition Council and its involvement in immediate and serious negotiations with the government of Syria. It seems that under the present conditions, all international players welcome the active diplomacy of Iran and Russia. Certainly, Russian diplomacy enjoys high chances of creating a proper atmosphere for negotiations. Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, can use its influence and ability, as a powerful international player, to balance the positions of the Arab countries and the US and its allies, and on the other hand, encourage Mr. Assad, as a friend of the Syrian government, to pursue constructive policies. On the other hand, Russia can use its excellent relations with Iran to push forward the peaceful transition of power to new conditions. This is a very good opportunity for Assad’s opponents to welcome Moscow negotiations and provide the grounds for a national constructive and peaceful solution apart from sentiments and excitements and understanding their historic responsibilities. In addition, the Assad government must comprehend its historic responsibility and evaluate the new initiatives of the Russian Federation as an opportunity. Certainly, the Russian government will use Iran's cooperation in this initiative. An immediate start to these negotiations will draw a hopeful prospect and horizon for the people of Syria. The constructive support of international players of Iran and Russia's joint initiative will pave the way for a bright future.