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The fact that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime and the rebels cannot even agree on a temporary ceasefire during the short period of Eid Al Adha speaks of the hopelessness in Syria and the extent to which both sides have become mired in a conflict from which an escape seems almost impossible now.
The United Nations was optimistic of brokering truce during Eid, and also had plans to assemble a peacekeeping force if a ceasefire was agreed on. But an Arab League official said yesterday that the chances were ‘slim’, which meant there was ‘no’ chance, because fierce clashes were raging between the troops and the rebels in Damascus and other northern battlefields.
The failure could be interpreted as the first major setback to UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s efforts. Brahimi tried hard to convince both sides to take a break from fighting, which would have saved his face. He contacted opposition leaders inside and outside Syria and armed groups in the country and “found them to be very favourable” to the idea, but the idea failed to take off. He had met Assad on Sunday and said he was “open to any sincere efforts seeking to find a political solution to the crisis.”
Yesterday was a day of pitched battles between the two sides. In Damascus, two bombs exploded and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 84 people, including 22 civilians, were killed across the country, adding to a toll of more than 34,000 people killed since the anti-regime revolt erupted in March last year.
Even in the absence of a truce, fighting is expected to subside during Eid as people celebrate, though there could be sporadic fighting. Both sides will use the lull to re-energise themselves and recoup, which could intensify fighting after holidays.
It’s unfortunate that the Syrian conflict is dragging on without any end in sight. Arabs and the Western countries have relapsed into a stupor after long, intense efforts for a political transition in the country. Brahimi has warned that the 19-month conflict could spill over and set the region ablaze if no solution is found. But that is beginning to happen.
Lebanon is paying a heavy price for the conflict in Syria, with the tenuous sectarian bonds in the country beginning to crack. With the memories of a civil war still fresh in public minds, Lebanon is watching with trepidation the developments in the neighbouring country.
With a stalemate on every front, Syria remains a big question mark. With Brahimi becoming the lone voice who is talking about truce and solution, Syrians are staring down an abyss.