Peace talks in Geneva aimed at bringing an eventual end to the Syrian Civil War have finally made some headway. On Friday, major powers agreed to implement a cessation of hostilities in Syria and expand delivery of humanitarian aid to the people caught up in the conflict. As it is now, the agreement is only an assurance of efforts and cooperation that could bring an end to the war. Bombs and bursts of gunfire continue to rock the country as they have for the past 5 years, creating apocalyptic scenes of towns turned to rubble and a refugee crisis the likes of which has not been seen since World War II.
Last week, as Syrian President Assad’s forces began one of the biggest offenses of the war, peace talks failed before they began. It was evident that immediate action was necessary as government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, threatened to encircle the city of Aleppo and worsen the humanitarian crisis there. 300,000 civilians are still trapped in the city.
A future agreement will not involve a ceasefire with the Islamic State, which has capitalized on the region’s chaos to claim large swaths of land in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Among other things, setting a firm end date for hostilities was one of the negotiators’ top priorities, but this will be no easy task. Western powers agree that Assad cannot remain in control as time goes on, but the idea has been floated in the past to have him as part of an interim government. Russia, which came to the Assad regime’s rescue just as it seemed that he was overwhelmed, will be much more reluctant to cede this point.
As seen in Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was ousted by U.S. forces, knocking down all structure and starting from scratch is not the answer; neither is removing a leader and replacing them with an equally corrupt and violent one as was seen in Egypt since the 2011 uprising. Learn from the teachings of history.
This tentative agreement is on thin ice to start with, so negotiations must proceed with caution, but determination, to reach an effective resolution.