While various sides have sponsored peace talks in Syria, success has been extremely limited and conflict has continued
Since the eruption of the Syrian Conflict in 2011, numerous international efforts have been pursued to find a solution to the violence. Unsurprisingly, many of these efforts have come from the United Nations, which has attempted on many occasions to bring the waring sides to the negotiating table and compromise on a range on issues to facilitate peace. However, these attempts have failed, and a solution to the conflict now looks as distant as ever.
In February 2012, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was appointed as the UN Envoy to Syria. Only five months later, however, Annan resigned citing “mission impossible”. Annan’s resignation came amidst rising violence in Syria and ever increasing external influences from regional powers, which sought to align themselves with various sides in the conflict.
Following the resignation of Annan, the diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi took over as the new UN Envoy. Within diplomatic circles, much was expected of Brahimi given his vast experience representing the UN in Yemen, Liberia, and Sudan, as well as in Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban. However, Brahimi only led two rounds of talks in Geneva before his resignation in May 2014.
The successor to Brahimi, Staffan de Mistura, took over the mantle in July 2014 and has led eight rounds of talks – seven in Geneva and one recently in Vienna. Yet, while these talks have brought various factions to the negotiating table, limited progress has been made, with both sides accusing the other of stifling progress.
Furthermore, when UN Resolutions have made their way to the Security Council, the 15-member organ of the UN that establishes sanctions and authorises military action, these have usually been vetoed by the major powers. Many onlookers have also criticised the inability to enforce any of these resolutions when they have passed – indeed, while a partial ceasefire was supposed to have been implemented in East Ghouta from Monday, shelling and airstrikes have continued on the besieged Damascus suburb.
Alongside these UN-sponsored talks, other negotiations have occurred in Astana and Sochi. While the former established the contentious ‘de-escalation zones,’ the recent talks in Sochi have largely flopped. In light of these failed approaches, the quest for peace in Syria remains elusive, signalling the likely continuation of war for many years to come.