Syria’s deathly civil war has ravaged the country and resulted in massive civilian casualties, and displaced thousands. The war between the Syrian regime, anti-government forces and various Islamist groups has also seen involvement from Western powers, Iran, Turkey, Russia and Hezbollah.
A nationwide ceasefire negotiated in Astana, Kazakhstan, under the patronage of Russia, Turkey and Iran in December has generally held, but sporadic fights have continued across the country.
Geneva peace talks are the part of the latest UN effort to bring the warring sided to the table and try to end the five year long conflict. The representatives of the Assad regime and his opponents will sit together for the first time after three years.
“I ask you to work together. I know it’s not going to be easy to end this horrible conflict and lay the foundation for a country at peace with itself, sovereign and unified.” Said Staffan de Mistura, UN mediator.
Previous UN-sponsored talks on Syria did not bring significant results; this has caused analysts to remain cautious in regard to the outcome of the current peace talks. There are still deep disagreements about the future of Syria, not only between the opposition and the regime, but also between Western powers on one, and Russia and Iran on other side.
Russia’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva, Alexei Borodavkin, said demands from rebels and their Western and Arab backers for Assad to step down were “absurd”. Assad’s regime enjoys strong backing from Moscow; since the start of Russian military intervention in 2015, Assad’s forces were able to recuperate and launch an offensive against the rebels and fundamentalist groups.
Nevertheless, significant parts of Syrian territory are still in the hands of anti-regime forces, as well as ISIS. According to an estimate by United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria, 400,000 people had died in the war.
Image: BBC News