Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, has written an article published in the Los Angeles Times criticising the international community for not doing more to protect civilians in the Syria conflict.
The article, published on Friday, comes as senior officials from 19 nations and groups meet in Vienna in an attempt to chart a way toward a cease-fire and political transition in Syria to end the country’s devastating war.
In the article, Roth called the odds of achieving a peace accord anytime soon “remote”. He added that instead of “betting all on an elusive goal of peace”, a central part of the talks should be the protection of civilians.
Roth wrote: “There’s no harm in trying to negotiate a lasting peace in Vienna; there’s just little reason to believe that these talks will be any more fruitful than their many predecessors.”
He added: “The negotiators should therefore also focus on possible points of agreement that could make a real and immediate difference for Syria’s remaining civilian population.”
Roth also said that if those gathered in Vienna cannot come to solution to the bloodshed, they do have the power to set up a mechanism for documenting and censuring war crimes.
He noted the influence the United States, the European Union, Turkey and the Persian Gulf states have over Russia and Iran, who are propping up the Assad regime.
He concluded: “The Vienna talks could matter a great deal if the assembled parties resolved to stop paying mere lip service to the Geneva Conventions and start insisting on respect for them by all forces fighting in Syria.”