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UN resolution offers fresh hope for war-torn Syria

By Wang Hui (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-24 08:32

UN resolution offers fresh hope for war-torn Syria

Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to members of the Security Council at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, Dec 18, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua]

The unanimous passage of a resolution by the UN Security Council on Dec 18 supporting a peace process to end the civil war in Syria could facilitate talks between the Syrian government and opposition forces in early January possibly leading to a ceasefire.

The world has never reached such an agreement since the civil war broke out five years ago. Before Friday's meeting, the UN Security Council remained divided on the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The US-led West set the ousting of Assad as a prerequisite for any political resolution in Syria while Russia insisted Assad stay at the helm.

The latest resolution, despite carefully avoiding the most contentious issue, would not have been adopted if Washington and Moscow had not reached an understanding on Assad's future.

Though Washington is still reluctant to formally accept a major policy change over Assad, it may not be long before it does so. In what could be seen as testing the waters, US Secretary of State John Kerry said during his visit to Moscow last week that Washington and its partners are not seeking regime change in Syria.

True, high-ranking US officials, US President Barack Obama included, later clarified that the US policy on Syria remains unchanged and Assad has to go. But Washington will have to directly deal with Assad sooner or later.

The rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East last year has totally changed the political landscape in the region. The UN resolution on Syria was adopted against the backdrop of the terrorist group wreaking havoc not only in Syria and Iraq, but also other places in the world.

The rising global awareness of the urgency to deal with the IS group has prompted the US and Russia, as well as other members of the international community to reach a consensus on Syria. Under such circumstances, if the US continues to stick to its "Assad-must-go" rhetoric, it will undermine the international efforts to fight terrorism.

The UN resolution is just a good beginning as more strenuous diplomatic efforts, and collaboration between anti-and pro-Assad forces are needed to ensure this hard-won opportunity to end the Syrian civil war is fully capitalized on.

Many challenges still lie ahead because of the complicated situation Syria is in now. Syria is currently engaged in two wars: the civil war between the Syrian government and armed rebels, and the war between ISciv terrorists, on one hand, and the forces of many countries including Syria, the US, Russia and some rebels, on the other.

To begin the political process in Syria, talks between the Syrian government and rebel groups would be the first step. At issue is who should be invited to the talks, because it is difficult to tell which groups are terrorist outfits in the tangle of wars in Syria.

How to implement a ceasefire in a country which has seen one-third of its territory occupied by the IS group is another challenge for the international community.

Obviously, to pave the way for a smooth political process in Syria, there must be a major breakthrough in the war against the IS terrorists, and it has to be achieved as early as possible. Otherwise, even if political transition or ceasefire could be carried out in Syria next year, it will still be short-lived.

The Syrian civil war and the fight against the IS group are now two sides of the same coin. But before the Syrian government and opposition forces could join hands to rid their country of the scourge of terrorism, the world needs to come up with more effective measures to deal a deadly blow to the IS group.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily. wanghui@chinadaily.com.cn

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