Does The Syrian Ceasefire Stand A Chance?

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, February 1

While most Syrian opposition groups refused to attend the Russian-mediated peace talks in Sochi, the conference last week still welcomed over 1,500 Syrian delegates. The major problem, however, was that while the parties were sitting down to talk in Russia, Assad’s forces launched over 100 raids in northwestern Syria, killing dozens of civilians. This is simply unheard of: How can anyone seriously claim to be negotiating peace while attacking innocent people? How can the Russian, Iranian and Syrian governments truly believe that any Syrian opposition groups would accept a ceasefire deal while their own neighborhoods are being targeted? Granted, some might argue that these attacks are meant to pressure the Syrian opposition into making concessions. But the reality is that it makes peace harder to reach. More disgraceful, the ceasefire framework proposed at the conference met none of the opposition’s demands. It merely protected Assad’s interests while calling on Syrian rebel groups to surrender. Sadly, reaching a ceasefire in Syria doesn’t seem to be the interest of the Russian or Syrian leaders. This is a grave mistake. Even a regime that enjoys the upper hand over the rebels must understand that both sides cannot have it all and that concessions will have to be made sooner or later. For now, Assad is ignoring this basic fact and so too is Moscow. If the Syrian opposition leaders feel like their voices are left unheard, as is currently the case, they will simply pack up their bags and go home. In the event, the bloodshed will continue and nobody wins. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

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