Despite the peace talks, lasting peace in Syria remains out of the question. Even a quick solution remains highly unlikely. The positions and interests of all stakeholders are too far apart, says DW's Ibrahim Mohamad.
The fighting will continue in Syria - even during the peace conference in Switzerland. The Syrian army is loyal to the regime in Damascus, while the opposition is fragmented and unable to unite and overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. More than 200 rebel groups are fighting the Syrian army, but also each other. Consequently, a victory for either side remains out of reach.
Most of the rebel groups think nothing of the peace conference. Some even consider the act of taking part in the talks as a betrayal. For the al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups, the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) who control large parts of northern and eastern Syria, the conference is even an obstacle on the way to their goal of a complete theocracy.
But that's not all. Assad and his opponents are also dependent on supporters who, in turn, have their own agenda. On the one hand, the rebels receive military, financial and logistical support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arab oil states - with the benevolent support of the Turkish government. On the other, the Assad regime is backed by allies Russia and Iran, who show their support with weapons, money and credit.
This dependence of the two sides on help from abroad makes a truce without the involvement of these interested supporters impossible. But Iran will not have a place at the negotiating table. After objections from Saudi Arabia and the exiled Syrian opposition, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon withdrew the invitation for the Iranian representatives. "Tehran has not agreed on the formation of a transitional government for Syria, and is therefore not eligible to participate," Saudi media reported, quoting its government officials. Iran has since made it quite clear that the conference will fail without its participation. While the US and France hailed the UN's decision, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called it an "unforgivable error."
Added to these differing international views are the irreconcilable positions of the opposing sides. For Ahmad al-Jarba, the head of the Syrian National Coalition, his only goal at the conference is to "drive President Bashar al-Assad from office and put him on trial." And in an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency, Assad called the demand for a transitional government that included members of the exiled opposition a joke.
Ongoing fighting, conflict within the Syrian opposition, Assad's unconditional drive to stay in power and serious differences between the major international players - all this will hamstring a breakthrough at the peace conference. However, the negotiations may serve as a small step toward a political solution. It is, after all, important for both sides to sit and actually talk with one another.