In the shambles of the Arab Spring, a few states stand out for their progress toward more responsible and participatory governance, but for all of them a negotiation approach has relevance for constructive policy. Tunisia has passed its constitution, leaving partisan bitterness in the midst of consensus. Morocco has accepted its new constitution, granted by the king from above. Now both need Western diplomatic attention: political in Morocco to keep the country on the track of reform and above all, economic in Tunisia to rebuild the shaken economy. Despite its faltering on the same path of liberalization (and with 2 ½ constitutions in as many years), Egypt’s latest government needs Western help and pressure in both directions.
On the other hand, in Syria, the West, notably the US, has abandoned its natural allies among the resistants, the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army, while the al-Asad force presses ahead, inexorably, with diplomatic and military support from Russia, Iran and Hiz-bollah. Geneva II has shown (incredibly not realized before) that in the absence of a stalemate painful to both sides and of a zone of possible agreement acceptable to both sides, negotiation is pointless. There is still time to give support to the more liberal side in the fight, the only option to avoid a major geopolitical defeat, but the window is not open for long.
This policy brief by I. William Zartman is part of the Processes of International Negotiation (PIN) program, which is Clingendael’s research network on negotiation processes.