Chance for peace

The six-point peace plan brokered by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for strife torn Syria seems to have paid off.

He has come up with a plan that sets in motion a process that could usher in a semblance of normalcy in the country.

It envisages a Syria-led political process to meet the aspirations of the Syrian people and provides for a UN-supervised ceasefire that calls on all parties to ensure supply of humanitarian assistance to all areas.

It requires the Syrian government to speed the release of arbitrarily detained persons and to respect the right of its citizens to demonstrate peacefully. It is heartening that both the government and opposition rebels have agreed to the peace plan.

The question is whether they will translate their verbal commitment to action on ground. Importantly, the plan has won the endorsement of the world’s big powers too, who have hitherto poured fuel on the civil war by arming either government forces or rebels.

Even as Annan was negotiating the plan, Washington promised opposition groups ‘non-lethal aid’. Such assistance, whether offensive or not, provides a lifeline to parties to the conflict, encouraging them to continue fighting. All kinds of assistance by outside powers, including the regional powers must stop to give the peace plan a chance.

 When Annan stepped into the Syrian quagmire to broker peace his effort was dismissed as ‘mission impossible’.  He proved his detractors wrong by finding common ground between opposing sides. The UN must take his effort to the next level by monitoring the ceasefire resolutely.

Even as a UN-supervised ceasefire begins taking effect, critics of president Assad’s government are accusing him of using the ceasefire to buy time. Perhaps he is. However, continuing calls from the west in favour of military intervention to oust his regime is contributing to its sense of insecurity.

Proponents of military intervention must understand that ousting Assad will result in Syria’s implosion along sectarian lines, a development that will have serious ramifications beyond its borders.

Besides an exodus of refugees that is bound to destabilise the region, it could trigger civil wars in Syria’s neighbours as well. It is not our argument that the world must remain silent on Assad’s atrocities. But supporting his ouster will not benefit anyone in the long-term.

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