Syria peace efforts haunted by 2014 Geneva talks
The Assad regime has made a habit out of guaranteeing the safe transfer of humanitarian aid to besieged areas ahead of peace talks.
Bashar al-Assad’s criminal regime continues to ignore basic humanitarian norms while Russia lashes out, claiming that the United States, Britain and France are “politicizing” Syria’s hunger and aid issue. Setting aside the myriad of disagreements on security matters and Assad’s future grip on power, the humanitarian situation in Syria – alone – sets the worst backdrop possible for the upcoming peace talks scheduled to take place on January 25 in Geneva.
The ongoing failure to adequately address the current top priorities – ending government and ISIS siege on civilian areas, pressuring all sides to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian aid and halting the intentional targeting of hospital and healthcare professionals – continues to be a mistake. Weeks prior to this, I asserted that all talks on Syria should first focus on pressuring parties to agree to the U.N. resolutions already implemented; the failure to address the most recent breaches paves the way for continued violations.
The Assad regime has made a habit out of guaranteeing the safe transfer of humanitarian aid to besieged areas ahead of peace talks.Brooklyn Middleton
It has been one month since the U.N. resolution 2254 was passed. Yet, Syria is no closer to seeing an end to its bloody civil war than it was before. More egregiously, intentional and rampant starvation – despite aid workers’ efforts – continue to claim the lives of civilians. On 11 January, NPR reported that the U.N. successfully delivered critical humanitarian aid to Madaya, besieged by the regime, and to the villages of Foua and Kefraya, which are besieged by rebels but periodically receive air drops of supplies from the Syrian military.
Mounting death toll
Even after the arrival of the aid convoys, the death toll from hunger continued to mount. Reports indicated that at least five people died in Madaya, prompting Doctors without Borders (MSF) to demand evacuations for all people who remain close to death.
No party involved in the conflict has yet attempted to air drop aid to Madaya or other areas under government siege, which could present an opportunity for Arab states to do their part to recommit to the U.S.-led coalition and, most importantly, actively alleviate suffering in Syria.
The Assad regime has made a habit out of guaranteeing the safe transfer of humanitarian aid to besieged areas ahead of peace talks. Two years ago, it allowed the transfer of aid to the starving to death Yarmouk camp - after months of choking it off from critical aid. Peace talks were scheduled to take place in Geneva four days later.
Two years later, the ramifications of allowing the Assad regime to treat the transfer of humanitarian aid as optional – as well as the rise of ISIS - are obvious and dire. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon noted that in 2014 the U.N. proved capable of delivering food to approximately five percent of Syrians living in besieged areas while now, he said, the U.N. is failing to reach even one percent.
Peace talks cannot be had while Syrians, on the brink of starving to death, are rendered literally speechless by hunger. Ending this bloody civil war is a moral imperative and a necessity for international security; hosting talks immediately remains crucial but it is foolish and dangerous to think that any progress can be made while hideous crimes against humanity continue.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.