Friday’s UN Security Council resolution is a significant step towards a viable diplomatic solution to end the war in Syria. It is premature to be optimistic as sharp differences still remain among key external players involved in Syria’s devastating war, but this is by far the strongest initiative outlining a peace process and a road map.
As John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has put it, during the past five years of conflict, one Syrian in 20 has been killed or wounded; one in five has become a refugee; one in two has been displaced and the average life expectancy in Syria has dropped by 20 years.
Today, Syria is a country where state control, governance and the formal economy have all but collapsed. Exploiting the vacuum, violent extremist organisations such as ISIS and the Nusra front have established control in large areas of the country, giving rise to an illicit economy. Deeply divided by politics, religion, sect and tribal loyalties, its economy in ruins, its cultural and historical heritage looted and destroyed, Syria may already be beyond repair.
Friday’s Security Council resolution endorsing a ceasefire and talks between the al-Assad regime and opposition came when the US and Russia managed to agree on a common framework. Even though there is no agreement on who will be taking part in ceasefire negotiations and whether the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be playing a role in Syria’s future, the UN plan has laid out specific enough goals and timeframes for the peace process to be tangible.
Most importantly, the US and most of its allies dropped their ambition of regime change while the Russians have moved towards abandoning al-Assad.
The UN Security Council prepared the groundwork for a political solution but the US and Russian cooperation alone is not enough to guarantee success.
The external powers including Turkey that have been fuelling the conflict in Syria need to be taken on board for the latest UN plan to work.
A key player, Iran, is still insisting on keeping Assad in power while objecting to inclusion of anti-regime forces in ceasefire negotiations.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has already dismissed the UN initiative as unworkable because it did not make al-Assad’s standing down a precondition.
The growing animosity between Turkey and Russia is likely to create another gridlock blocking any progress towards a political solution in Syria.
Putin’s language is getting cruder each day while Turkey, too, seems intent on pouring fresh scorn on Russia.
Prime Minister Davutoglu’s announcement that there will be an official visit to Ukraine in coming days, followed by the visit of the Ukrainian president to Ankara is not likely to go down well in Moscow.
It is the Russian presence in Syria that has proved to be the turning point in the Syrian conflict. With Putin calling the shots and the Americans falling into line, Turkey’s somewhat chaotic regional policy is looking more and more delusional each day.
This post is also available in: Turkish