WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with forces loyal to Assad's government fighting numerous opposition factions and extremist groups.
"It is excellent that President Assad has agreed to participate in a ‘transition’ process, aiming presumably at a peaceful, stronger and more politically inclusive Syria," Just World Books publisher, historian and Middle East expert Helena Cobban said on Wednesday.
The details of the transition process still needed to be filled out, Cobban acknowledged.
"All actors are currently in the period of pre-negotiations — the negotiations over how the actual, larger negotiations and the transitional process that conducts them are to be structured."
Cobban pointed out that political transitions to greater democracy, accountability and inclusiveness are hard to accomplish, but the process, while difficult, could still succeed.
"With good will, and above all, a desire to bring to an end the intense suffering caused by armed conflict — the [diplomatic goals] can be achieved: Even if, as in any negotiation, no party gets all that he or she would have started out wanting."
Cobban also observed that at the end of the transitional process, there will be a new constitution in Syria — the one that is negotiated during the transition.
"The new constitution may or may not include a degree of federal devolution of power. This does not need to be resolved yet; and doubtless the negotiations over it will continue."
Other nations that had ended long civil wars could advise Damascus on ways to resolve difficult issues, Cobban suggested.
"[F]or example, Mozambique, whose government made the difficult decision back in 1990 to negotiate a peace with the armed opposition that had ravaged the country for the previous 15 years," she opined.
Assad would certainly continue to be cautious in the negotiating process, US Middle East expert and author Dan Lazare said on Wednesday.
"I think Assad is right to be leery, although he'll clearly have to be more accommodative vis-a-vis Syria's minorities, especially a non-Arab minority like the Kurds, than the Baathists have been in the past," Lazare stated.
He argued that the situation Assad had dramatically improved in recent weeks.
"I'd say that things are looking better for him than at any point since the civil war began in 2011. Palmyra was a great victory, and the fact that the ‘cessation of hostilities’ is still holding shows how exhausted many of the rebel forces are by this point."
After five years of incredible punishment and a civil war that had cost 250,000 lives, it was remarkable that the Damascus regime was still standing, Lazare added.
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