Near the end of February, after five years of civil war, a ceasefire quietly took affect in Syria. However the ceasefire is not meant to stop all fighting in the war-torn country, as the truce will not apply to the battle against The Islamic State (commonly called ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports, “135 [people], including 32 civilians, were killed in 7 days of military operations in the truce areas.”
Despite these deaths within the area covered under the ceasefire, reports indicate that “fighting has slowed in Syria.” With Antiwar.com reporting, “everyone is enjoying the dramatic reduction in violence the ceasefire has provided.
Everyone except the rebels, that is.”
This is because the rebels “resisted international efforts to broker a settlement of the war,” and many rebel factions insisted a ceasefire would not work. Those rebels said they were being betrayed by the US government because the ceasefire would never work, and are now reportedly “blasting the US for ‘betraying’ them by supporting a ceasefire which is working, and is heading toward some settlement short of installing them as the new government.”
Some aid organizations are using the slow-down to deliver food and medical care to people affected by the war. Since the civil war began five years ago more than 270,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced either internally or externally. Those who are externally displaced are the subjects of the Syrian refugee crisis, and have drawn the ire of some Republican Presidential candidates.
The United Nations will be using the ceasefire as a precursor for a new round of peace talks. Reuters reports, “UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said the talks, originally due to begin on Monday in Geneva, would get off to a staggered start later in the week, with delegates arriving from Wednesday onwards.” Adding, “the delay was due to ‘logistical and technical reasons and also for the ceasefire to better settle down’.”
If previous peace talks are any indicator of the manner in which this new round will be handled, don’t expect all parties to actually be involved. During a round of peace talks in January, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political wing of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), wanted “to take part, and interestingly it’s Russia who [wa]s leading the call for them to take part, despite the perception that the YPG [is] primarily a US ally.” Antiwar.com reports “Though they are one of the largest factions in the Syrian Civil War, and hold almost the entire Hasakeh Province, the PYD/YPG were not invited to the talks, on the demand of Turkey, who insists they are terrorists.”
In addition to some parties refusing to allow certain warring factions to negotiate an end to the war, the parties at the previous talks have refused to even be in the same room. Thus far it is not known if the next round of peace talks will be similar “proximity talks” or not. The fact that fighting has slowed, instead of escalated, should be seen as a sign that the war in Syria may be ending. The questions that remain unanswered are:
What happens when the fighting stops. Specifically, will lines be redrawn on the maps, or will the country simply get a new government?