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Syria’s Moment of Truth

President Assad on a walkabout in Homs last week after accepting the Peace Plan
President Assad on a walkabout in Homs last week after accepting the Peace Plan
President Assad on a walkabout in Homs last week after accepting the Peace Plan

Since Syria accepted the United Nations 6 point peace plan, not much has changed on the ground. The United Nations has estimated that since the conflict began, over 9,000 Syrians have been killed. The death toll has continued to rise even as key members of the international community met in the Friends of the Syrian people summit in Turkey last week.

Strong rhetoric, unsurprisingly, has led to little concrete action on the part of the Syrian government and the delegates at the summit were well aware that Syria’s recent decision to take part in the UN plan is half-hearted. The 6 point plan to pull back forces, end the use of heavy weapons, allow peaceful demonstrations and access for humanitarian aid and journalists as well as beginning a political transition has not been adhered to by the Assad government and the international community appears to be losing its patience.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that the plan was “not open ended”. His message was echoed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said there was “no more time for excuses and delays… this is the moment of truth.” However, as with most international declarations that have been made against Syria in the past, these admonitions are not effective.

This is in part due to the pointed absence of Russia and China at the summit, and their repeated refusal to support any international resolution requiring Assad to step down. Meanwhile, Iraq’s comments arguing that the Syrian government will survive the civil war undermine the broader efforts by the Arab community to convince Assad that stepping down is his best option.

Interestingly, however, the international community is looking for more concrete alternatives than strong language. The President of the Syrian National Council (SNC), Byrhan Ghalioun, recently stated in a press conference that from now own, the SNC will pay officers, soldiers and other members of the Free Syrian Army fixed salaries.

Those who desert the Syrian army will also be compensated. The funds for these payments are the result of a compromise between wealthier Gulf states that have expressed an interest in the past to arm the rebels, and the US and Turkey that have opposed arming rebels for fear it will lead to an escalation of violence. Meanwhile, the US has pledged another $12 million dollars in order to support humanitarian efforts, bringing their total aid contribution to $25 million.

While these new efforts demonstrate the commitment of certain states in the international community to support the insurgency, the road ahead in Syria will be long and difficult. On-going support from Russia and China towards the Assad government will encourage them to hold on to power. Convincing these key states to support their efforts and form a united front against the Assad government will be crucial to bringing an end to the conflict.

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Paula Mejia
Paula Mejia is a contributing writer for The Majalla. As a freelance journalist and former consultant for the African Development Bank, her work has focused on the economic and social challenges in Africa, with a special focus on Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, L’Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (Science Po) and the University of Chicago.

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