Next week, with some progress being made, Syrian peace talks will inch forward in Geneva. Also, the Chinese People’s Congress will meet and the world will be watching closely.
Syrian Peace Talks in Geneva
Next week peace talks between the government of Syria and opposition forces in the six-year civil war will inch forward in Geneva. The civil war has displaced millions of civilians and left an estimated 500,000 dead, mostly killed by government forces. Accusations of indiscriminate shelling by both sides on hospitals and civilians abound, and the use of chemical weapons has been observed. Chaos from the region has spread across Europe with the flood of refugees and fears of terrorism.
The lack of active U.S. participation in the talks and no concrete policy goals made clear by the Trump administration on the issue has left a diplomatic vacuum. Without active U.S. involvement in the peace talks, there is no counterweight to Russia who is moderating the talks. It is unknown which side of the negotiating equation the U.S. will favor—the regime side or the opposition. However, this past week the administration may have left a hint.
On Tuesday, U.N. Ambassador for the U.S. Nikki Haley strongly condemned Russia and China for their vetoes on the Security Council of resolution that would have punished the Syrian government for their use of chemical weapons in the fighting. Haley described the veto by saying, “Russia and China made an outrageous and indefensible choice today.”
So far the only vague policy put forth by the Trump administration is the idea of “safe zones.” However, it is unclear what the administration means by the term and how it would implement it.
The future of the Syrian peace talks is uncertain. Any progress thus far has been slow with accusations by both sides and walkouts. There is still a long way to go, and as of yet, there have been no face-to-face talks between the two sides. Syrian peace for now and for the near future remains elusive.
China’s National People’s Congress Gathers
Three-Thousand Chinese lawmakers will meet in Beijing next week for the 2017 National People’s Congress. As always, the annual gathering allows the world to glimpse the issues that seem to matter most to the Chinese government. This year they are likely to discuss cross-strait relations with Japan, their economic outlook, the defense budget, and relations with the Trump administration.
Trump has come into office seemingly as a hardliner against China. He campaigned on China’s trade imbalance with the U.S. and their currency manipulation. He greatly alarmed Chinese officials by his phone call to the Taiwanese leader and suggestion he may back away from the One-China policy that has been a cornerstone of Sino-U.S. relations. However, Trump seemed to back away from his stance and declared his support for the traditional One-China policy. Trump also came into office bearing gifts for the Chinese. His executive order withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans Pacific Partnership benefited China.
Another key issue the U.S and the world will be watching for is any signs of China hardening or softening its position on the manmade islands in the South China Sea. The islands are a significant source of tension between China and America as they project Chinese territorial and military claims into key shipping lanes for global trade.