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Russia holds the cards on Syrian conflict

Apr 16,2019 - Last updated at Apr 16,2019

The United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen held “substantial” talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Damascus on Sunday to explore new avenues for bringing the Syrian conflict to a political solution now that the military side of the conflict has been concluded to the advantage of Damascus, with the direct military and political aid and support of Russia and Iran.

Pedersen’s predecessor, Staffan de Mistura, resigned late last year out of frustration after failing to convince the Syrian government that a political solution was needed after hostilities have effectively ended.

There is no reason to expect the new UN envoy to succeed where all his predecessors have failed to bring genuine peace and stability to the country after more than eight years of warfare, during which nearly half-a-million Syrians have been killed and an even larger number injured. This is not to mention the many Syrians who have literally disappeared or were imprisoned.

Syrian refugees from the war are numbered in the millions, so are the internally displaced people. Few Syrian refugees have trickled back to their country because of fears about their life and security, not to mention their well-being in their homeland.

There is no sense in raising the level of expectations about the mission of the new envoy, unless Moscow decides that enough is enough and that time is now overdue for a real political solution to the Syrian conflict that is based on genuine democracy and rule of law.

Pedersen can, nevertheless, keep on trying until he, too, resigns out of frustration and despair.

The new envoy is a senior diplomat with much experience and patience. Pedersen’s mission can be facilitated by Russia, which holds most of the cards on the Syrian conflict. The new envoy will be well advised to spend some of his time and energy in Moscow instead of “wasting” it on visits to Damascus. After making three trips to Syria since he has taken on his mandate, Pedersen must know by now that the real address for a solution to the Syrian crisis is in Moscow, not in Damascus.

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