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300,000 dead, 11 million refugees, but nobody can get in a room to talk about peace

The civil war in Syria has gone on for five years.

Syrian refugee Saada Khalaf, 45, who fled from the city of Homs, Syria, cries near the grave of her husband Ali Jomaa, in the eastern village of Dalhamyeh, in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon.
Syrian refugee Saada Khalaf, 45, who fled from the city of Homs, Syria, cries near the grave of her husband Ali Jomaa, in the eastern village of Dalhamyeh, in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE FIVE-YEAR “anniversary” of the Syrian Civil War passed two and a half months ago.

By that time, a quarter of a million people were dead, at least.

However, even that has not been enough to bring peace to the middle-eastern nation. Indeed, just this week the opposition chief negotiator in UN-brokered peace talks has announced his resignation in what analysts said amounted to a warning the Geneva-based process was on its “last legs”.

Mohammed Alloush, a member of the Saudi-backed rebel group Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), said on Twitter he was resigning over the talks’ failure to produce any results on humanitarian and security issues.

“The endless negotiations are harming the fate of the Syrian people,” Alloush said.

Mideast Syria Pro-Syrian government protesters shout slogans and wave Iranian and Syrian flags during a protest in front the Iranian Embassy to thank Iran for their support of the Syrian government. Source: AP/Press Association Images

He blamed the “stubborn” regime for continuing to bomb Syrian cities, but also lambasted the international community for failing to secure an end to sieges, more aid access and prisoner releases.

With Ireland this week pledging another €5 million to Syrian aid, is there any hope of a resolution?

Short answer

In short: no.

The Syrian civil war is entangled, complicated and entrenched. Even if rebels were able to sit down to agree a deal, there is the not-inconsequential matter of Isis.

This map shows the lands held by the government (red), rebels (green), Isis (black) and Kurdish forces (yellow).

PastedImage-92568 Source: Syrian Civil War Map

A fragile ceasefire between President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and non-jihadist rebels brokered by Washington and Moscow was meant to bolster the talks, but repeated violations have left it hanging by a thread.

On the ground

While some areas had been observing the ceasefire, others weren’t. In fact, a humanitarian aid convoy on Wednesday entered the rebel-held Syrian town of Daraya, the Red Cross said, in the first such delivery since a regime siege began in 2012.

An estimated 8,000 people live in the town, which lies just a 15-minutes drive southwest of Damascus.

Despite intensifying appeals from its residents, the United Nations and rights groups, Syria’s government had so far repeatedly refused to allow aid into the town.

Daraya’s local council said the convoy included only “medical supplies,” but no food for the town’s starving people.

What next?

That’s the million Syrian pound question.

The collapse of yet another round of talks means that the war is likely to go on. That is because the international community cannot agree on what they want to happen next.

America wants al-Assad removed and has tentatively backed rebels and airstrikes on Isis. Russia, meanwhile, has backed Assad.

Turkey Syria Turkish soldiers in a a tank hold their position on a hilltop in the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, overlooking smoke rising from a strike in Kobani, Syria. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Neither, however, has backed either side to the extent that they can win. That is, neither has put boots on the ground in such a way that would overwhelm one side or the other. Some observers believe neither would do that for fear of heightening tensions with the other.

While on a global scale that means peace, it will elongate the Syrian conflict.

In the short term, Syria analyst Charles Lister warns that Alloush’s resignation could be the death knell for these peace talks.

“Unless the international community can come up with a substantial improvement in conditions on the ground, the eventual withdrawal of the armed opposition seems all but inevitable now,” Lister wrote.

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