On Friday, in behaviour typical of the Syrian regime, its head of delegation at the Geneva talks blasted the opposition for statements made ahead of the current round of dialogue. Bashar Al Ja’afari said his team would be leaving, and that the regime will decide whether the delegation will return on Tuesday to continue with the talks. The regime has good reasons to feel it has the upper hand. With the help of Russia and Iran, it has managed to kill its way to a dominant position. It feels it can get away with just providing lip service to the “peace process” while strengthening its position on the ground and remaining resolutely opposed to the most important demands of the opposition.

But the regime must realise that its main backer, Moscow, seeks international legitimacy for the mediation efforts it has been leading in the recent Sochi talks, which brought together the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey. And no other organisation can provide as much international legitimacy as the United Nations. Hence, the United Nations-sponsored negotiations in Geneva are important even for Russia. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura spoke of a 12-point agenda that could lead to a “shared vision of what Syria could look like” after almost seven years of war that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Al Ja’afari earlier told reporters that De Mistura had put forward the principles document without consulting the delegation, and generally seemed to paint a bleak picture of the talks.

Following its Riyadh declaration, the opposition is clearly trying to get ahead with meaningful negotiations, but it does not seem to have in the regime a credible partner for peace. Unfortunately, the regime still seems to believe there is a military solution to this political problem.