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Civil War Breaks Out in Syria as Russia Tries to Broker Deal

Syria's leader, Bashar al-Assad (photo: PanARMENIAN_Photo, flickr)

The UN has been trying to draft a resolution on the situation in Syria, calling for Bashar al-Assad to relinquish control of the government to his deputy, who would then form a unity government.

Russia has so far objected to the terms of the resolution, particularly Assad’s ouster.

But the situation has changed in Syria over the weekend. Hundreds have died in running battles across the country, including in suburbs of Damascus, where defecting soldiers and government troops have staged gunfights in what has amounted to a civil war. The Arab League suspended their mission due to the violence. So things are spiraling a bit out of control.

Amid this, Russia announced that the Syrian government has agreed to talks with the opposition, in Moscow.

Russia announced on Monday that it had convinced Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria to start informal negotiations in Moscow with representatives of the opposition in an effort to end a bloody uprising that has left thousands dead.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, which made the announcement, said in a statement that it had not yet received an answer from the opposition, but urged a speedy reply.

“In an attempt to contribute with the Syrians to a peaceful settlement without foreign intervention and with respect to the sovereignty of Syria, we have appealed to the Syrian government and to all opposition groups to send their representatives to Moscow at a mutually acceptable time for informal contacts without prior conditions,” the Foreign Ministry said.

You can find the announcement here. But I don’t think it’s going to bear much fruit. The Syrian National Council basically replied that they would not agree to negotiations unless Russia Assad stepped down first. For their part, Russia wants the SNC to bear some responsibility for the violence. So this doesn’t even seem like a stepping stone to reconciliation, but another opportunity for Assad to hold out and blame his opponents. As long as Russia stays in his corner, he has a safe harbor, and the UN will be deadlocked. Russia also supplies Syria militarily, so the support is crucial.

Russia tried this gambit with Libya, ultimately standing mute when the international community decided on intervention. They will not repeat what they see as a mistake. So I think we’re closer to civil war than resolution at this point.

UPDATE: Hillary Clinton has been dispatched to the UN:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will join British and French foreign ministers at the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to back an Arab-backed condemnation of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

“The status quo is unsustainable,” Clinton said in a statement. “The longer the Assad regime continues its attacks on the Syrian people and stands in the way of a peaceful transition, the greater the concern that instability will escalate and spill over throughout the region.”

CommunityThe Bullpen

Civil War Breaks Out in Syria as Russia Tries to Broker Deal

The UN has been trying to draft a resolution on the situation in Syria, calling for Bashar al-Assad to relinquish control of the government to his deputy, who would then form a unity government. Russia has so far objected to the terms of the resolution, particularly Assad’s ouster. But the situation has changed in Syria over the weekend. Hundreds have died in running battles across the country, including in suburbs of Damascus, where defecting soldiers and government troops have staged gunfights in what has amounted to a civil war. The Arab League suspended their mission due to the violence. So things are spiraling a bit out of control.

Amid this, Russia announced that the Syrian government has agreed to talks with the opposition, in Moscow.

Russia announced on Monday that it had convinced Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria to start informal negotiations in Moscow with representatives of the opposition in an effort to end a bloody uprising that has left thousands dead.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, which made the announcement, said in a statement that it had not yet received an answer from the opposition, but urged a speedy reply.

“In an attempt to contribute with the Syrians to a peaceful settlement without foreign intervention and with respect to the sovereignty of Syria, we have appealed to the Syrian government and to all opposition groups to send their representatives to Moscow at a mutually acceptable time for informal contacts without prior conditions,” the Foreign Ministry said.

You can find the announcement here. But I don’t think it’s going to bear much fruit. The Syrian National Council basically replied that they would not agree to negotiations unless Russia Assad stepped down first. For their part, Russia wants the SNC to bear some responsibility for the violence. So this doesn’t even seem like a stepping stone to reconciliation, but another opportunity for Assad to hold out and blame his opponents. As long as Russia stays in his corner, he has a safe harbor, and the UN will be deadlocked. Russia also supplies Syria militarily, so the support is crucial.

Russia tried this gambit with Libya, ultimately standing mute when the international community decided on intervention. They will not repeat what they see as a mistake. So I think we’re closer to civil war than resolution at this point.

UPDATE: Hillary Clinton has been dispatched to the UN:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will join British and French foreign ministers at the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to back an Arab-backed condemnation of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

“The status quo is unsustainable,” Clinton said in a statement. “The longer the Assad regime continues its attacks on the Syrian people and stands in the way of a peaceful transition, the greater the concern that instability will escalate and spill over throughout the region.”

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