Syria: Conflict deadlocked after peace plans and ceasefire shattered

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China has proposed a new peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict

by Christine Orr

The four day ceasefire that was to occur over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syrian prime minister, Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, was shattered within hours of it starting last Friday (26th October).

Two car bombs exploded in the capital, Damascus, early on Friday morning preceding bombing by Syrian government jets into Sunni Muslim areas in Damascus. The shelling continued over four days of the holiday, spreading to Maarat al-Numan, a town on the highway between Damascus and Aleppo.

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Syrian government officials blamed “armed terrorists” for breaking the ceasefire and maintain that government forces were merely retaliating.

Government newspaper Al-Thawra wrote in an editorial, “These terrorist groups are not the masters of their own decisions and generally follow foreign parties that have no interest in stopping the bloodshed in Syria.”

The FSA argued that Assad attempted to use the ceasefire to move his troops and try to gain back areas of Damascus.

Peace plan

The international community despaired as the ceasefire was ignored by both sides. The UN special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, has stated that he will not give up looking for a peaceful solution.

An envoy at the UN Security Council said, “The political process will not start until Assad and the opposition have battered each other so much that there is no choice. They are not there yet, but Brahimi has some ideas.”

Brahimi’s visit to China this week has resulted in a “proposed solution” by China to solve the conflict in Syria. This four point proposal includes a phased region by region ceasefire and a transitional government.

Chinese spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing, “In the new proposals there are constructive new suggestions such as a ceasefire which is region-by-region and phase-by-phase, and establishing a transitional governing body.”

China has previously received criticism for its apparent support of the violent government but is now keen to show a stronger stand against the violence being committed by Assad.

The spokesman added: “China’s position on the Syrian issue is consistent. The new proposal is an extension of China’s efforts to push forward a political resolution of the Syrian issue.”

These proposals will be presented to the UN Security Council where China and Russia have previously vetoed three peace proposals as all three required the retirement of Assad.

Ethnic divisions

The fighting in Syria has spread with violence breaking out in the otherwise neutral Kurdish district of Aleppo leaving thirty dead. The FSA moved into the area before the ceasefire began to wait out the holiday but fighting broke out between FSA members and the Kurdish Diplomatic union party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).

The FSA has since apologised for the violence. It is feared that Assad will use this conflict to stir up bad feelings between the Kurds and the FSA to overwhelm his opposition.

“Our Kurdish brothers are comrades in our nation," the Free Syrians Brigade said in a statement.

“The problem... was the result of a misunderstanding that was created by a regime plot.”

The FSA also got involved in fighting in the Yumuk Palestinian camp near Damascus. The camp, home to some 145,500 people, is largely supportive of Assad and has so far not been involved in the conflict.

Anwar Raja, spokesman for the pro-government Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command said, “Our goal is to prevent the camp from being taken hostage and becoming a battlefield, but there are parties in the armed Syrian opposition who wish to draw us into the maze of Syria's internal crisis".

Regional interference

Meanwhile Qatar and Turkey have openly condemned Assad’s government and the international community’s response so far.

A Qatari official told Al-Jazeera television: “What is happening in Syria is not a civil war but a war of extermination against the Syrian people."

The war, he charged, was being waged "with a licence to kill, endorsed firstly by the Syrian government and secondly by the international community."

The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed a similar position.

Davutoglu said on Tuesday: "There is no point in engaging in dialogue with a regime that continues to carry out such a massacre against its own people, even during Eid al-Adha."

Turkey has supported the FSA continually and has exchanged shelling over the border with the Syrian army.

He continued: "So we will continue to work as hard as we possibly can, in cooperation with everybody inside of Syria and outside of Syria to bring the level of violence, put an end to it."

Both Qatar and Turkey have admitted to supplying the FSA with weapons in the hope that they can overthrow Assad with force as political attempts to have Assad step down have so far failed.

The conflict, now in its nineteenth month, is estimated to have claimed over thirty-two thousand lives and looks unlikely to be resolved soon.

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published this page in News 2012-11-02 15:33:58 +0000