Published On: Thu, Apr 28th, 2016

Finding a solution to Syrian conflict

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United States, Russia USThe second round of the Geneva II conference on the nearby three-year-old Syrian conflict got under way recently. The first round of the talks ended a few weeks ago, without any substantial progress except the modest agreement to lift the military siege on the city oh Homs to allow humanitarians relief materials into the city and also let its elderly residents to leave. Even to, the insurgents staged attacks on the humanitarian convoys that went into the city.

No agreement on substantive issues like a ceasefire and modalities for a transitional authority was reached. The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) with its tenuous authority over the various shades of the insurgency poses the most serious obstacle. As the Syrian conflict has spawned an assorted range of insurgents, including Islamic extremists affiliated to the al Qeada, it is greatly doubtful who the Syrian National Coalition really represents. While the opposition took the lead seat in Geneva to negotiate with the government, it has itself expressed doubts whether it could get all Syrian opposition elements to accept any agreement it might reach with the government. However, in spite of evident difficulties, getting Syrians of all political persuasions to talk is a significant mileage in reversing the carnage that has terribly disfigured this pivotal Arab country.

Even though, so far the talks have not got anywhere near even a framework for a substantive negotiation, we urge that the current momentum be sustained, since the alternative is an increasing resort to terror by the armed insurgents. After all, the insurgents and their key regional backers-Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey-have their hopes dashed for failing to instigate US led NATO military strikes against the Syrian regime. The demoralized insurgents have increasingly resorted to terror tactics to compensate for a weakening military position. The West has become increasingly persuaded the disparate opposition would not hesitate to ply their trade of terror even in the West, as soon as they could gain a foothold on any formal state structure. A recent report showed how dangerous and disruptive the elements of European and American Jihadists who have gone off to fight in Syria, would be, on their return to their home countries.

The main driver of the Geneva II conference on Syria, Dr Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat and special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, is experienced and very resourceful, with an immense capacity to produce results from a seeming political stalemate. The SNC and their regional and western backers have always made a case for a transitional government in Syria, without president Bashar Assad. This is the main crux of their armed insurgency and having lost so much ground in the conflict, it is unrealistic for them to expect to secure at the conference table what they could get on the battlefield. Successful war leaders like President Assad cannot realistically be negotiated away on the conference table.

We urge less recriminations and more flexibility by both the government and opposition if they are concerned at the miserable fate of their compatriots, 100,000 of whom are already dead and millions more eke out living in refugee camps across the region. A once model Arab nation, with a reputation for tolerance and inclusiveness, must not be allowed to bleed away.


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