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Syria’s issue are not Syrians, rather ‘regional and neighbouring states’

Syria’s issue are not Syrians, rather ‘regional and neighbouring states’
With an increasing death toll and an on-going brutal proxy war the Syria crisis seems at a crossroads with a state on state clash which is being waged on Syrian soil, the only people who can create a solution from the embers of destruction are Syrian.

There is much consensus that a pulverizing military victory on either side is inconceivable, the regional deadlock ensures the sustainability of each embattled side in what is transpiring to be a lengthy war of attrition being fought on Syrian territory.

In the midst of the war there has been a significant change in the tone of the main players, the Syrian government has been speaking of peace rather than war, whispers of the words dialogue and political solution are echoing from Damascus. The opposition coalition too has been busy, sending demands and pre-conditions for any potential peace plan or dialogue, a release of 160,000 prisoners and a visa extension for all Syrians who are abroad.

Under the auspice of Russia, a meeting is due in Moscow at the end of next month between the head of the coalition and the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem. This reiterates the role Russia has to play, perhaps one of mediation and active diplomacy, a far stretch from the policies of western powers who continue to support a policy of regime change in Syria via proxy.

The Syrian Foreign Minister said on Monday ahead of talks with his Russian counterpart that “We are ready for dialogue with anyone who wants dialogue, including those who are fighting with arms in their hands, because we are confident that reforms cannot be carried out through bloodshed, but through dialogue.” This signifies a crucial and defining change of attitude, faith in an ultimate military solution has been replaced by more pacified calls for an end to hostilities. This statement is important, as since the beginning of the crisis this is the first time a leading official has expressed the government’s readiness to engage in dialogue with the armed opposition.

The insistence on dialogue shows the embattled state views the crisis in the following context; firstly a political solution is an absolute necessity, it is the only way to end the crisis and preserve the strength of the state. Secondly, the quarrel is not between Syrians, but rather regional and neighbouring states that flood Syrian borders with fighters, weapons and extremist ideology, allowing for the presence of radical Islamic groups including Al Qaeda, working under the façade of the al Nusra front, according to Walid al Muallem.

Today Jabhat al-Nusra, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, is involved in main fighting in Syria. It invited fighters from 28 countries including Chechnya.”  Foreign radical fighters are what the Syrian government clearly fears the most, their presence; thought to number thousands is encouraged by regional powers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, making it a state on state clash which is being waged on Syrian soil.  

From a political perspective the opposition are boldly making a statement, in a sense reaching out to Assad for a political solution, with al Khatib’s call for dialogue. This can be judged to have the risk of running political suicide and a statement from a position of profound weakness, which is how some in Damascus may view the initiative.

It seems the Coalition has backtracked from its initial viewpoint, where no longer than a month ago Khatib was vehemently and audaciously requesting an apology from Moscow to the ‘Syrian people’ for their continued support for the Syrian government. 

On Monday Al Khatib said "I ask the regime to send Farouq al-Shara - if it accepts the idea - and we can sit with him”. It is clear that there is a fundamental change of tone to the opposition coalition; Al Khatib added "The issue is now in the state's court...to accept negotiations for departure, with fewer losses".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated “The number of the supporters of this realistic line (peaceful solution) is increasing.” Conspicuously there is a lack of desire for a prolonged conflict which could threaten to engulf the region and create a hotbed for extremism in a major Arab country.

Lavrov reiterated Russia’s stance is unchanged; Moscow desires a peaceful outcome to the crisis. One cannot help but respect and admire the Russians Foreign Minister, who clearly analyses developments in Syria using logic and common sense rather than scepticism and distortion. He described the western stance on Syria as a 'strange logic' especially considering their protection of the rebels and persistent refusal to condemn opposition violence. He stated in a Russia Today interview that 'In general, the logic of those who say, ‘No negotiations with Assad’ is really very controversial and very dangerous.’

Russia clearly supports a political solution and understands the diverse socio-political structure of the region; they shy from making rash decisions in light of a volatile regional atmosphere with complicated transitional political systems. Instead of attacking Russia's position the West could learn from Russia's more pragmatic foreign policy.
Russia also has the capacity to facilitate dialogue and run the longer course; Lavrov said “Peace treaties are not concluded overnight. They take a long time, a lot of compromises required by the parties involved. And also responsible behavior is absolutely critical by outside players.” Lavrov also admitted that the opposition could not defeat the government militarily.

Perhaps a glimmer of hope in a dark tunnel and maybe a long shot but Russia understands the basis of this conflict; they comprehend the crux of the crisis. This knowledge will act as a catalyst for their solid position. We no longer live in a world where it is acceptable to externally administer regime change at will, Russia will certainly see to that in the foreseeable future.

Western desire for intervention is fading as manifested by William Hague’s statement on the threat of terror in Syria “They may not pose a threat to us when they first go to Syria but if they survive some may return ideologically hardened and with experience of weapons and explosives.

Conspicuously, there can be no external solution and western disenchantment with the conflict in Syria only adds pressure to a Syrian led political solution; every conflict ends in an agreement, whether it is the Vienna convention, Treaty of Versailles or the Taif agreement which solved the Lebanese civil war.

The real difference now is that there seems to be a flickering light of hope at the end of the long, dark and bloody tunnel. This hope is manifested in the real potentiality of a political settlement. Those who read history can comprehend the nature of conflicts in the Arab world; Syria seems to be taking the path of the conflict in Algeria, with the opposition unable to achieve a definite military victory. 

The ‘silent majority’ in Syria constitute a considerable portion of the Syrian people, they seek an end to the crisis and a stop to the on-going cycle of war, I was recently in Damascus where life is bogged down in huge queue’s for petrol and bread, luxuries which Damascenes have always taken for granted, this hits home the potency of the conflict and how social and daily life in Syria has been affected by the conflict. 

Truth be told, Syria no longer grabs the top headlines, there is a growing lack of interest in the conflict, emphasis only really emerges after the UN presents a new body count. Time will not wait for Russia and America to settle their differences, or for Qatar and Saudi Arabic to stop supporting the Islamist militias, the only people who can create a solution from the embers of destruction are Syrian. The world, the Middle East and the Syrian people await them.

Danny Makki, Syrian political activist, co-founder of Syrian youth in Britain and graduate in International Relations.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Danny Makki, Syrian political activist, co-founder of Syrian youth in Britain and graduate in International Relations