Syria's 'peace process': a series of diplomatic bungles?

Published February 3rd, 2013 - 14:35 GMT

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Arab League peace plan for Syria
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Image 1 of 10: As the Syrian uprising grew more violent, Western powers, still showing little interest in attempting to solve the crisis, watched as the Arab League peace plan led to the release of more than 4,000 prisoners. An observer mission was dispatched in December 2011, only to be disbanded after a month.

Russia vetos Syria UN resolution
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Image 1 of 10: As the Arab League arrived in Damascus, Russia and China blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a political transition. A non-binding resolution was passed in the General Assembly, while Russia drafted its own accord, which the West said was too soft on the regime.

Kofi Annan appointed Syria envoy peace plan
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Image 1 of 10: Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan became envoy to Syria in February last year, and announced a 6-point plan to end the violence. A ceasefire under his watch took effect in mid-April, but sporadic fighting continued.

Annan ceasefire Assad army massacre Houla
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Image 1 of 10: Assad assured Annan his troops would abide by the agreement. But he backtracked, untrusting of the opposition, troops under his command entered two villages in Houla, Homs, killing 108 people, including 34 women and 49 children. By May the ceasefire had fallen apart entirely.

United Nations observer mission syria
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Image 1 of 10: The U.N. observer mission, set up in April to back up Annan’s plan, came under fire, both figuratively and on the ground. It was scrapped in June because of the dangers of operating in conflict areas.

Lakhdar Brahimi Syria envoy peace plan
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Image 1 of 10: Annan resigned in August, replaced by the current envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi. Brahimi has tried to roll out a similar peace plan, a ceasefire coinciding with Eid al-Adha in October and has met with Chinese and Russian officials. The plan, a predictable failure, led to no truce. Brahimi said he was ‘terribly sorry’.

Iran syria dialogue conflict peace
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Image 1 of 10: With everyone else chipping in with peace plans for Syria, it seemed only fair that regime arms supplier, Iran, should have their turn. In December foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, offered up a six-point plan calling for a “diplomatic solution” to the country’s crisis through national dialogue.

assad peace plan syria civil war
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Image 1 of 10: In January, after nearly 22 months of violence, the man at the center of Syria’s bloody civil war outlined his own plan for peace. Addressing the nation, Assad offered a national reconciliation conference, elections and a new constitution but said he is ready to enter into dialogue only with those ‘who have not betrayed Syria.’

Lakhdar Brahimi United Nations Syria peace plan
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Image 1 of 10: Lakhdar Brahimi believes the U.N. Security Council holds the key to peace in Syria. Offering his own ‘comprehensive’ six-point plan to the body, in January the U.N. peace envoy said changes need to be made to the Geneva accord of June 2012 if an end to the conflict is to be achieved.

syria opposition dialogue peace kafrnabl conflict
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Image 1 of 10: Many Syrians have expressed disenchantment with the peace plans through small acts of resistance. In Kafrnabl, Idlib, protestors designed posters portraying the West as the wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. The National Council has said it will talk to the regime, but only if Assad is out of the picture.

The enormity of the human tragedy that has engulfed Syria since March 2011 cannot be underestimated. Tens of thousands have been killed, perhaps a million imprisoned and abused. Mothers have lost daughters and sons, brothers have turned on brothers. Millions have been displaced or made refugees. Amid all the chaos and uncertainty, one thing is crystal clear — the country will never be the same again.

Peace remains elusive, even as new proposals are put forth from all sides. The current U.N. envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, strikes an increasingly hopeless tone in his public statements. Syria “is being destroyed bit by bit,” he says. The situation is “very grim.”

Since the Arab League proposal to end the conflict in November 2011, numerous plans have been drawn up, accords have been signed and abandoned, ceasefires ignored and mocked; while in the background the suffering voices of Syrians have often gone unheard.

But Syrians have not only met the farce of the peace process with anguish and anger. Across the country, people have poked fun at the perceived absurdity of the “international community’s” rhetoric compared to the reality through art and free expression. Residents of the small Idlib town of Kafrnabl gained fame by penning satirical posters as a form of dissent

Iran, Syria and Russia have added their own proposals to end the conflict to those of the Arab League and Western powers, and in the last few days the opposition (or at least the opposition endorsed by Washington) has said it will hold talks with the regime if Assad will play no part in the country’s future. But it’s unlikely peace will be accepted by the activists, the Free Syrian Army and other anti-regime militia, unless a new plan includes the reorganization of the security services and an international peacekeeping force.

Without mention of justice for past crimes in a future peace settlement for Syria, how can people who have seen so much injustice be expected to stand behind it? Without a system of justice to account for decades of oppression, how can the rebels be expected to hand over their arms after the guns fall silent?


Have your say: Do you think peace plans put forward by foreign powers can bring an end to the fighting? Have the plans been too far removed from the reality of the war?

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