Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013

Editorial

Syrian imbroglio

The unrelenting civil war in Syria remains one of the most intractable of problems facing the Middle East. At long last, a flicker of light can be seen through the doom-gloom scenario as the United States and Russia find a common ground in Syria. After months of differences on ways to resolve the deepening crisis with the USA insisting Assad must go first, US Secretary of State John Kerry had marathon talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before striking a deal over a common approach to the Syrian problem.
They have basically agreed to push both sides — rebels and Assad loyalists — to find an end to the bloodshed for which they have offered to hold an international conference.
The basis is already there in the Geneva agreement cobbled by Kofi Anan that the world powers had signed up to in June last year but never came close to seeing it implemented. The accord set out a path towards a transitional government ‘without ever spelling out the fate of President Bashar al-Assad’. Lavrov and Kerry now hoped they could convene the international conference by the end of May to build on the Geneva agreement.
In what seems to be a major US concession to Russian concerns over instability in the Middle East ally, Kerry appeared to have softened the US stance on Assad’s future.
Washington until recently appeared to be thinking of options to mount more pressure on Assad on the question of use of chemical weapons but has lately scaled down its rigidity on the issue. Kerry has told reporters that ‘only the Syrian regime and the opposition can determine the make-up of a transitional government to shepherd the war-torn nation towards democratic elections.’ The Russian-US accord has been dubbed as ‘very significant fast step’ by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League for Syria which means so much more needs to be done by way of ending one of the bloodiest of civil wars in the current century.