An editorial in The Guardian says: There can be no more urgent matter than putting an end to the terrible human tragedy and the lethal regional destabilisation produced by the Syrian conflict. This is a war in which 300,000 people have died, which has internally displaced half the country’s population and which has caused more than 4 million to flee the country altogether. Syria has become the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our time. The plight of its people is also dangerously destabilising Europe and exposing weaknesses in its institutions. If the humanitarian crisis were not enough on its own, then the need to resolve Europe’s refugee crisis at its source would be reason enough to pay close attention to the peace talks that are scheduled to begin on Friday in Geneva. Yet even getting everyone round the table is looking fraught.
In the current climate, the stated aim of the talks appears breathtakingly ambitious. Mandated by a UN resolution passed in December, their purpose is to organise a gathering of representatives of both the Assad regime and opposition groups, in the hope that it could eventually lead to the formation of a new government, and later, elections. At this stage of a devastating war, it is tempting to see the very possibility of talks as an achievement in itself. Yet for several reasons there is a danger that they amount to nothing more than fake diplomacy.
First, the question of protecting Syrian civilians has all but fallen off the agenda. There can be no progress without attention to their plight. Second, western powers seem to have made key political concessions to Russia and Iran, the main enablers of the Assad regime. As as result, the Syrian dictator will feel even more empowered to pursue the mass targeting of his own countrymen and to continue a war of attrition in the belief that he will ultimately come out the winner. [Continue reading…]