The term “de-escalation,” announced by Moscow and approved by Turkey and Iran, which covers four specific areas in Syria, appears to circumvent Resolution 2254 that stipulates a ceasefire and lifting of the blockade. The term is also an evasion of the legal necessity for a Security Council approval should safe zones be declared. The United Nations turned a blind eye to this evasion on the grounds that the declaration of safe zones in Bosnia was unsuccessful, as evident from the safe zone in Srebrenica, where a massacre had taken place and resulted in the murder of 8,000 Muslims without the intervention of UN forces, who, at the time, stood idle, simply watching the bodies and severed limbs of the victims.
We recall the United Nations’ period of confusion and hesitation during the first rounds in Astana before it accepted that period as an alternative to the international inability to uphold the Geneva talks in the face of the Syrian government’s refusal to pursue negotiations because the UN limited the Syrian issue to terrorism and rejected any negotiations based on the international resolution.
The Geneva talks focused on the so-called “pre-negotiation stage,” where the Resolution stipulates that the confidence-building period should be carried out through immediate measures: a ceasefire, preparation for fair elections within 18 months pursuant to a new constitution, and a political transition under United Nations supervision.
Both the secret and declared objectives of terrorist groups are to prioritize fighting ISIS, al-Nusra, and the like while ignoring Iran’s terrorist militias. All the while, millions of Syrians are waiting for an international solution to put an end to their suffering caused by the bombings and siege. Russia is said to want to separate the military file and all so-called pre-negotiation measures from the Geneva talks so that they may only focus on the political track.
We were aware that this proposal endangers the Geneva talks because it takes the issue from the hands of the UN.
The meetings in Astana continued and the term “de-escalation” was invented in the fourth round. The mandatory reconciliations started and if any of the opposing parties refused to reconcile, they would be forcibly displaced. The northern Syrian regions were overwhelmed with displaced persons. The Geneva talks were neglected, and the role of the United Nations was marginalized. The guarantor states began to establish borders between influential zones, which are serious procedures as even though they provide communication corridors, they initiated an undeclared partition.
The Syrian National Coalition did not participate in the Sochi meeting, a follow-up to the Astana talks, but accepted its outcomes because, in my opinion, it was subjected to international pressure. The failure to form the Constitutional Committee and its initial meetings bought it more time. Tragically, this committee has become the only institution in which the international community is trying to breathe life into despite its demise.
The guarantor states are no longer able to provide justifications for all the Astana and Sochi agreements. The Syrian issue is facing a political vacuum, particularly as the Putin-Biden meeting did not result in a practical action nor a clear vision for the implementation of Resolution 2254, which is about to lose its essence.
Assuming that the issue succumbed to its current state of hibernation, and the displaced accepted the situation despite its harshness and fully integrated into their host communities, the Syrian issue will remain suspended. The Syrian tragedy will be exacerbated inside Syria as the country is torn apart and suffers from terrible poverty and economic collapse.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Emirati publication al-Ittihad.