While peace talks are continuing regarding the civil war in Syria, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura called on Russia, Turkey and Iran to salvage the ceasefire, which was described as “tattered”. He made his plea from Geneva, where talks are ongoing, according to Reuters.
The ceasefire was agreed to prior to the peace talks and allowed the sides to meet in Geneva. However, there appears to be multiple violations as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, Russia, Iran and Shi’ite militias from nearby countries seek to staunch the biggest rebel assault in months. This action started last week, in the area around Damascus and the Hama countryside.
“Growing violations in recent days are undermining the ceasefire regime addressed through the Astana meetings, with significant negative consequences for the safety of Syrian civilians, humanitarian access and the momentum of the political process,” de Mistura said during the third day of peace talks.
Russia, Turkey and Iran are the three guarantors of the ceasefire that came into effect on December 30. The U.N. envoy said he wrote to the countries’ foreign ministers, urging them to “undertake urgent efforts to uphold the ceasefire regime.”
Reports have been released by the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC)’s lead negotiator, Nasr Hariri, listing 15 civilian deaths and 70 injured after a bombing in Hamouriya, part of the Damascus countryside.
“I am talking about the killing machine and terror machine of the Assad regime,” Hariri said after a meeting with the U.N. envoy, where he also read the names of the victims to reporters. “Any political solution would not be meaningful or credible if it was not accompanied with a real ceasefire on the ground…If we don’t have that real ceasefire, then things will deteriorate very badly.”
Political transition is one of four themes that the two sides have agreed to have on the agenda for this fifth round of talks. The Syrian government delegation presented the U.N. mediator with a paper on terrorism, demonstrating that this was an agenda item that Damascus views as a priority.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented 948 civilians killed, “largely at the hands of the Syrian regime and Russia” since the last round of talks at the beginning of March. However, with U.S.-led forces determined to fight ISIS, the Syrian conflict has become even more complicated.
Syria’s U.N. ambassador said hundreds of American personnel are “invading my country” and insists any effort to liberate the city of Raqqa from control of the radical Islamic State group should be done in coordination with the Damascus government.
These talks should be discussing the form of government, a new draft constitution, elections and the fight against terrorism, but at this time, there appears little chance that “direct talks” will happen between the two sides. Currently, each side speaks to a U.N. mediator. However, the situation on the ground have worsened, making it difficult to move forward.
The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 and throughout the seven years of conflict, has displaced thousands of individuals from their homes, resulted in more than 320 thousand deaths, and 6.6 million internally displaced persons. Militias have also been active in Syria, contributing to the instability of the country. Iran has trained forces and sent them to Syria, as well as sending members of the IRGC.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 4.9 million people have left their country. And 90% of those living in poverty, another 10% are considered “extremely vulnerable”. The war has also pushed back decades of advancement in terms of economic, cultural and social development. The educational and health care systems are in crisis, while the volume of business between 2010 and 2015 dropped by 55%.