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A new dawn for Syria?(thehindu )

e ceasefire reached between Syria’s government and Opposition, with the mediation of Turkey, Russia and Iran, could be a turning point in the country’s civil war. Unlike the two previous failed ceasefires this year — which were negotiated between Russia and the U.S. — the latest one is sponsored by countries directly involved in the conflict. The positive reaction from both the Syrian regime and rebel commanders to the announcement of the ceasefire by Russian President Vladimir Putin also suggests that the warring parties are willing to give diplomacy a chance. For the Syrian government, this is an opportunity to announce it is ready for a peaceful settlement. Though President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly claimed that he would retake the entire territory from the rebels, a military solution appears to be illusory. A prolonged conflict will exhaust the regime forces further and multiply the humanitarian costs. On the other side, after the victory in Aleppo, the regime could now negotiate with the rebels from a position of strength. For the rebels, the momentum is gone. Their support is limited to certain parts such as Idlib, Daraa and the outskirts of Damascus. The question they face is whether they should continue fighting a never-ending war of attrition or seek to gain leverage from whatever military influence they are left with.

There is a convergence of interests for Turkey and Russia in finding a peaceful solution. Having seen the U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia doesn’t want to get stuck in Syria. By promoting a negotiated deal, it could retain its core interests in Syria while at the same time projecting itself as a power broker in West Asia. Turkey wants to limit the spillover effects of the war on its soil and stop Kurdish rebels from capitalising on the chaos in Syria. This explains why Turkey and Russia have come together now despite their bitter relations last year. But these objective conditions alone may not produce sustainable peace. It is still not clear which rebel groups have agreed to the ceasefire. Turkey supports only some of the rebel groups, while several other groups get support from Gulf monarchies. There are jihadist elements as well in the Opposition, such as Fateh al-Sham, that could play the spoiler by carrying out attacks on government positions. Besides, the Kurdish question remains unaddressed. If Kurds are invited for talks, Turkey might withdraw its support for the peace process. For now, however, if the ceasefire holds at least till next month’s Astana summit of the related parties, it could be a new beginning for Syria.

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