The Geneva 2 inaugural session had very little to do with a diplomatic conference. It was a big show, broadcast worldwide. In reality, each speaker was addressing one fraction of the public, usually that of his country and certain allies, without necessarily caring about what would ensue. Also, one’s assessment is completely different depending on whether the event is perceived in terms of public relations or as a quest for peace.

In appearance, the Syrian delegation hogged the floor for too long, while the opposition clamored for President Assad’s resignation with the strong support of the U.S. delegation. One might have believed that Damascus was about to abdicate.

However, the Western press was not blinded by the mirage. While John Kerry solemnly stated that it was unthinkable that President Bashar al-Assad could participate in a transition government, members of his cabinet flocked to the press room to explain to reporters that Syria without Assad would be worse off than with him. They were thereby subscribing to the arguments already presented by Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker in the New York Times. Thus, it became clear that the State Secretary’s speech was intended to pacify his Saudi allies, not to be implemented.

The delegation of the National Coalition argued convincingly against the "crimes of the regime" and claimed all the power for itself, pledging to respect minorities. But his diatribe could not withstand the slightest discussion. Hence, he trotted out a report, published two days earlier - which accuses the government of having killed under torture 11,000 people - presenting it as an "independent report", when it is in fact yet another piece of Qatari propaganda. Moreover, one is left to wonder why the Coalition would respect in the future the minorities it persecuted during the war?

At the end of his performance, Mr. Jarba announced he would not participate in the negotiations himself, without specifying who will lead the delegation in his absence.

Here again, the Western press was not fooled. Everyone could see that even though Mr. Jarba was good at delivering the speeches written by his sponsors, he lacks the stature for the job, whereas the Syrian delegation is composed of first-class professionals. But beyond the competency gap, Mr. Jarba finds himself in an unenviable situation: he has posed as the winner of a war he lost; he pretended to speak on behalf of a people who ignore him. Clearly, the National Coalition speaks only in its own name. The main groups that composed it have bowed out; its government in exile has resigned, leaving only the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia.

What everyone ought to recall is Sergey Lavrov’s opening speech at Montreux, when he quietly noted that the Geneva 1 final communiqué and Security Council resolution 2118, on which the conference is based, stipulate that all Syrian political groups should be represented at Geneva 2. However, at Washington’s behest, only the remnants of the Coalition were invited. The Russian Foreign Minister underlined his hope that Syria‘s internal patriotic opposition will have a place at the negotiating table despite its absence at the inaugural session.

Only then will the real conference begin.

Al-Watan (Syria)