www.iasinsights.in ; www.isgyaan.com posts Hindu summary about Syrian Peace talks.
Towards war’s end: on Syria peace talks
- Talks between Assad’s regime and Kurdish rebels portend peace in north and east Syria
- This was the first time since the outbreak of war that a delegation was sent by Kurdish rebels to Damascus.
How did the Syrian war start?
- Even before the conflict began, many Syrians were complaining about high unemployment, corruption and a lack of political freedom under President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his late father Hafez in 2000.
- In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in the southern city of Deraa, inspired by the “Arab Spring” in neighbouring countries.
- When the government used deadly force to crush the dissent, protests demanding the president’s resignation erupted nationwide.
- The unrest spread and the crackdown intensified. Opposition supporters took up arms, first to defend themselves and later to rid their areas of security forces. Mr Assad vowed to crush what he called “foreign-backed terrorism”.
- The violence rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war.
What is the war about?
- It is now more than a battle between those for or against Mr Assad.
- Many groups and countries – each with their own agendas – are involved, making the situation far more complex and prolonging the fighting.
- They have been accused of fostering hatred between Syria’s religious groups, pitching the Sunni Muslim majority against the president’s Shia Alawite sect.
- Such divisions have led both sides to commit atrocities, torn communities apart and dimmed hopes of peace.
- They have also allowed the jihadist groups Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda to flourish.
- Syria’s Kurds, who want the right of self-government but have not fought Mr Assad’s forces, have added another dimension to the conflict.
Who is involved?
- The government’s key supporters are Russia and Iran, while the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia back the rebels.
- Russia – which already had military bases in Syria – launched an air campaign in support of Mr Assad in 2015 that has been crucial in turning the tide of the war in the government’s favour.
- The Russian military says its strikes only target “terrorists” but activists say they regularly kill mainstream rebels and civilians.
- Iran is believed to have deployed hundreds of troops and spent billions of dollars to help Mr Assad.
- Thousands of Shia Muslim militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran – mostly from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, but also Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen – have also fought alongside the Syrian army.
- The US, UK, France and other Western countries have provided varying degrees of support for what they consider “moderate” rebels.
- A global coalition they lead has also carried out air strikes on IS militants in Syria since 2014 and helped an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) capture territory from the jihadists.
- Turkey has long supported the rebels but it has focused on using them to contain the Kurdish militia that dominates the SDF, accusing it of being an extension of a banned Kurdish rebel group in Turkey.
- Saudi Arabia, which is keen to counter Iranian influence, has also armed and financed the rebels.
- Israel, meanwhile, has been so concerned by shipments of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Syria that it has conducted air strikes in an attempt to thwart them.
Will the war end?
- It does not look like it will any time soon but everyone agrees a political solution is required.
- The UN Security Council has called for the implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique, which envisages a transitional governing body “formed on the basis of mutual consent.“
- But nine rounds of UN-mediated peace talks – known as the Geneva II process – since 2014 have shown little progress.
- President Assad has appeared increasingly unwilling to negotiate with the opposition. The rebels still insist he must step down as part of any settlement.
- Meanwhile, Western powers have accused Russia of undermining the peace talks by setting up a parallel political process.
- The so-called Astana process saw Russia host a “Congress of National Dialogue” in January 2018. However, most opposition representatives refused to attend.
- A deal with the Kurds could upset Turkey, which sees Syrian Kurdish rebels as an extended arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which it calls “terrorist”. The Syrian regime therefore has to do a balancing act here, with support from Russia.
- Russia managed to convince the U.S., Jordan and Israel that the regime’s capture of the province was the best-case scenario for the region. Likewise, it could bring the U.S. and Turkey into a larger diplomatic attempt to end the war in the east and the north, which would more or less stabilise Syria.