Green shoots in Syria?

Syria enters 13th year of crisis amid positive signals of possible political detente…reports Asian Lite News

The Syrian crisis is entering its 13th year with some positive signs that the stalemated political settlement could see a nudge this year.

The first three months of 2023 witnessed some crucial developments that raised hopes about a possible detente in the 13th year of the crisis. The main headline was the success of the Russian and Iranian efforts to break the ice between Syria and Türkiye as the relations between the two neighbouring countries have seen much tension over the past 12 years.

Deputy foreign ministers of Syria, Türkiye, Russia, and Iran are set to meet soon to pave the way for the meetings of Syrian and Turkish foreign ministers for the first time since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. In December, the defence ministers of the two rivals met in Moscow.

People search for survivors among the rubble of a building destroyed in a powerful earthquake in the al-Masharqa neighborhood of Aleppo city, northern Syria, on Feb. 7, 2023. Massive earthquakes have killed 364 people and wounded 702 others in Aleppo city, the media office at the Aleppo governorate headquarters told Xinhua. (Str/Xinhua)

A possible rapprochement between Syria and Türkiye is crucial for peacefully defusing the Syrian crisis. Türkiye enjoys considerable sway over key rebel groups in northern Syria as it’s one of the opposition backers.

Another unexpected positive development was the China-backed reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both are regional powerhouses and key players in the Syrian war, with Iran supporting the government of President Bashar al-Assad while Saudi is a key opposition backer.

On top of that, devastating earthquakes, which jolted Syria on Feb. 6, have pushed Arab countries to shelve former policies toward Syria, creating the so-called “disaster diplomacy.”

For the first time in more than a decade, Saudi planes landed in Syrian airports delivering relief aid to the earthquake victims. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry also made an “ice-breaking” visit to Syria after the quake, expressing the most populous Arab country’s support for Syria.

On Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the Syrian war, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Syrian President Bashar Assad for talks that are believed to touch upon Syrian-Turkish reconciliation.

Positive signals can be felt domestically, regionally, and globally, said Mohammad Al-Omari, a Syrian political observer and writer.

“Moscow and Tehran exert efforts to find a mediation formula between Syria and Türkiye and reflect that on the political track in Syria. The earthquake’s devastating impact on Syria has provided chances for some countries to communicate and cooperate with Syria,” he told Xinhua.

The analyst pointed out that the current positive vibe could push the stalemated political talk forward, noting that a comprehensive political solution demands a broader international and regional alignment based on cooperation and stability.

However, as Syria’s political development moves to the positive side, the financial situation doesn’t seem as promising due to the U.S. sanctions that are choking the country’s economy.

People are seen at a displacement center in the Salah al-Deen neighborhood in Aleppo, northern Syria, on Feb. 7, 2023. Massive earthquakes have killed 364 people and wounded 702 others in Aleppo city in northern Syria, the media office at the Aleppo governorate headquarters told Xinhua. (Str/Xinhua)

Al-Omari noted that even if the U.S. could lift the sanctions, which is highly unlikely, the impacts would not end overnight as the U.S. measures had created a “cracked environment” in Syria.

“The U.S. sanctions and embargo imposed on Syria, as well as its illegal actions in stealing our resources, have led to a cracked and fragile environment that will have a substantial influence on the country’s education, health, and food security in the future,” he noted.

According to UNICEF estimates, 90 percent of people in Syria live in poverty, most are unable to make ends meet or bring food to the table. Families have had their resources depleted, with limited employment opportunities, skyrocketing prices, and a shortage of basic supplies.

Osama Danura, another political analyst, said he is optimistic about the continuous reconciliation between Syria and regional countries, adding that the communication that has already taken place will help reduce tensions in regional flashpoints. ■

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