By Manish Rai
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution endorsing an international road map for a Syrian peace process, a rare show of unity among major powers on a conflict that has claimed more than a quarter of a million lives. U.N. gave its blessing to a plan negotiated earlier in Vienna that calls for a ceasefire, talks between the Syrian government and opposition and a roughly two-year timeline to create a unity government and hold elections. But this concept of formation of national unity government for Syria is not new. It was earlier endorsed by former UN special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Arab League since the start of Syrian conflict. At that time no serious efforts was made in this direction as a show of strength was going on between regional and international players over Syrian issue. Everyone was promoting and supporting their proxies in Syrian arena which has caused a lot of destruction and suffering for Syrian people. Now all the parties in the Syrian conflict has realised that there can’t be a clear cut military victory. Moreover there is an emerging consensus that the Assad regime would likely be pivotal in fortifying the Syrian state and preventing further gains by the Islamic State group. Which has taken an advantage of war chaos and has seized vast territory of Syria.
Despite their agreement at the United Nations, the major powers are bitterly divided on who may represent the opposition and on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. United States says that Syria conflict should be solved in accordance with Geneva communique that set the goal of a transition of power to a broad-government spanning loyalists and rebels but maintains that Assad should play no role in future of Syria. While Russia the staunchest backer of Syrian Government endorsed Geneva communique but regarding the fate of Mr Assad says it should only be decided by the Syrians. But, at the same time, the UNSC resolution signals a strong desire of the major powers to find common ground on Syria and push for a political settlement, irrespective of their divergent interests. The rival powers are putting pressure on their Syrian allies to indulge into negotiations and talks. Saudi Arabia is putting pressure on the Syrian opposition and rebels which its supports to form a unified front before entering into formal talks with the government. On other hand Russian and Iranians are making President Bashar al Assad agree to share or even transfer power in the hands of unity government.
But this time the Syrian peace talks should be compressive and should only exclude extremist elements like- Islamic State and Nusra Front. The talks should include- Government of Bashar Al- Assad, opposition groups like Syrian National Coalition, Damascus based National Coordination Committee, representatives of Free Syrian Army, Southern Front and most importantly Kurdish groups. The first step in this direction to form a national unity government can be nationwide ceasefire between opposition groups and Syrian government which can be monitor by the United Nations observers. It will act as the confidence building measures and will create and right and cordial atmosphere before the talks. But this ceasefire would not apply to Islamic State, Nusra Front and other extremist groups otherwise they will take advantage of it to regroups and reinforce themselves.
When the broad consensus emerges between the Damascus and opposition groups to form a transnational government. Then other important issues like- conducting free and fair elections, Drafting of new constitution and national rebuilding can be addressed as well. Gradually there is a need to nationalising the rebellion disarming the militia groups and restoring the state’s monopoly over weapons. Only then can a stronger Syrian state fight the war against jihadists as well as rebuild shattered lives. Syrians have experienced uninterrupted dictatorship for 40 years, and, with it, extreme economic hardship and now this bloody civil war. But Syrians are remarkably resilient, resourceful people as well as being young and highly educated. Syria as a nation requires a national dialogue, overseen by the international community, aimed at bolstering internal unity and thus at protecting the country from regional interference. If international assistance is provided in developing Syria’s democratic institutions and political infrastructure, they can build a robust civil society that can assert its own identity and sovereignty, independent of undue outside influence. A new Syria, based on democratic principles, would not only benefit Syrians, but would be a force for stability throughout the whole region. So, this time Syrian peace talks should be supported by everyone as it is in interest of everyone to keep Middle East stable and peaceful. Syrian bloody conflict has all the potential to spread in the region and will affect the regional political dynamics for years perhaps decades and could exacerbate a wider Shi’a-versus-Sunni sectarian conflict in the region.
(Author is a columnist for Middle-East and Af-Pak region and Editor of geo-political news agency ViewsAround (VA) can be reached at email@example.com)