A European ambassador in Beirut said Thursday that the visit of U.N.-Arab League Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to Beirut last week was intended to pave the way for Lebanon’s participation in the Geneva II conference on Syria, but added that Lebanon’s participation was still very much up in the air.
The ambassador said that it was possible that Lebanon could announce that it would not be participating in the conference, in accordance with the disassociation policy. He added that negotiations between President Michel Sleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati were underway to find a “diplomatic way” to reject the invitation to participate in the conference.
The ambassador, who recently embarked on a high-level visit to the United States and a European capital, excluded the possibility that Geneva II would be held on schedule for Nov. 23, since major international forces have yet to carve out a clear plan for the post-Assad stage.
Brahimi will tour several capitals in the region over the weekend and is expected to return to Geneva on Nov. 5 to meet with representatives from Russia and the United States.
Saudi Arabia, however, has not given Brahimi the green light to meet with its officials.
The diplomat said that reaching a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis was “not feasible” in the current climate because regional powers have no idea who is winning the war.
Reasons for the ambiguity on the ground were attributed to the lack of information about which areas in Syria are controlled by the regime or rebel forces, and because of the contradictions and disputes among the ranks of the opposition.
“The emergence of fundamentalist armed groups, such as ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria] and the Nusra Front, as well as other groups, was the handiwork of regional intelligence agencies, with Western cover, to prolong the Syrian crisis until the two fighting camps are exhausted and forced to sit at the negotiation table,” he said.
The ambassador went on to say that the international community was unlikely to push for a resolution on domestic Lebanese issues, including the formation of a Cabinet, until the regional crises have worked themselves out or at least become clearer.
“I don’t see the Cabinet formation happening before presidential elections since regional complexities are still present and the international community is focused on preserving stability in Lebanon and avoiding dangerous security incidents by neutralizing the country from regional disputes” the envoy said.
He went on to say that each country will likely pursue its own interests. The United States, for example, has several priorities with respect to its foreign policy in the region, the first of which being Syria. Diplomats have been working hard to find a solution that takes into consideration the threat posed by the regime and fundamentalist opposition groups.
The second U.S. priority is Iran, where Washington is interested in opening communication channels to reach an agreement with Tehran about its nuclear program. If these efforts are successful, the ambassador said, it could lead to positive contributions from Tehran to finding solutions to the Syrian crisis.