Middle East

Diplomatic efforts to halt Syria conflict

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, listens to his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

BEIRUT: The U.N. Security Council has backed a new push for peace talks in Syria, in a step unanimously adopted by Damascus ally Russia and the world body’s 14 other member states.

Monday’s vote was the first time in two years – since a deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons – that the international community agreed a political statement on the country’s brutal conflict which broke out in mid-2011.

Many initiatives have tried at the international level to seek peace in Syria, all of which have failed. No planned cease-fire has led warring factions to lay down their arms:

Arab initiatives Nov. 2, 2011: The Arab League announces an accord with Syria on a plan under which violence would stop, prisoners be freed, the army pull out of towns and cities, and Arab observers and the press would be allowed freedom of movement.

None of the clauses are respected and the League within weeks suspends Syria’s membership and adopts unprecedented sanctions against a member state.

The United States and the European Union had already imposed sanctions on Syria in April, which have since been strengthened.

Jan. 22, 2012: A new initiative by Arab foreign ministers calls for the transfer of power from President Bashar Assad to his deputy.

On Jan. 24, the regime shuts the door on any Arab solution and says it is determined to stamp out the popular revolt.

Friends of Syria Feb. 24, 2012: First meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group, a diplomatic initiative by countries backing Syria’s opposition, boycotted by Moscow and Beijing. The group, which includes the United States, France and Britain, organizes several meetings in different cities.

Annan planApril 12, 2012: A cease-fire, proposed under a plan drawn up by U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, comes into force but is shattered within hours.

On April 14 and 21, two Security Council resolutions authorize the deployment of 30, then 300 observers. But on June 16 the head of the U.N. observers announces the suspension of the mission because of an intensification of violence.

Geneva IJune 30, 2012: In Geneva, the Syria Action Group involving the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain, along with Turkey and the Arab countries, agree on the principles of a Syrian transition, before differences emerge on their interpretation.

Washington believes the accord clears the way to a post-Assad era, while Moscow and Beijing say it is up to Syrians to decide on their future. The accord is never applied.

U.S.-Russian deal on chemical weaponsSept. 14, 2013: The United States and Russia reach an accord in Geneva on dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, ending the prospect of U.S. airstrikes brandished after a chemical attack blamed on the regime.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says that chlorine gas has since been “systematically” used in the conflict.

Geneva IIJan. 22-31, 2014: Negotiations launched in Switzerland under the framework of a “Geneva II” conference between the opposition and the regime. The talks are initiated under pressure from the United States, ally of the opposition, and Russia, which backs the regime. The talks wind up without concrete results.

On Feb. 15, U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who has replaced Annan, winds up the deadlocked negotiations in Geneva. On May 13, Brahimi resigns after more than 20 months of fruitless efforts.

4th Russian-Chinese vetoMay 22, 2014: Russia and China veto a draft French U.N. resolution under which the organization would go to the International Criminal Court over crimes committed by the regime and rebels.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 19, 2015, on page 8.

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