Ending the killing in Syria with a political solution

Last week the Syrian deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil admitted that the fighting in Syria had reached a stalemate.

“Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side,”

he told the Guardian


But the killing goes on. Clearly, there is no military solution to Syria’s problems, only a political solution.

That is why the efforts to have a peace conference, often called Geneva Two, are so important. Russia and America have been working together on Geneva Two, but they’ve had their differences, with America trying to narrow the list of who should be invited. The Obama administration wants to exclude anti-Assad groups who are not part of the Syrian National Coalition. But making any ceasefire/political solution stick requires a buy-in from all the rebel groups (as well as those opposition groups who are resisting the Assad regime in a non-violent manner). It also makes no sense for Washington to push for Iran’s exclusion from the Geneva conference, when that government clearly has such an influence on Syrian affairs.

Our Foreign Minister, Murray McCully,

has come out for a political solution in Syria

, But it would be good to hear him offering some pointers as to how Geneva Two could be brought into fruition. These could include:

• Making the conference open to all government and anti-government parties.

• Not placing preconditions on the negotiations, such as demanding that Assad depart before talks begin (as some rebel groups did before Geneva One, thereby aborting the conference). Assad resigning to make way for a transitional administration is something that could come out of negotiations, rather than be a precondition for them.

• Supporting the presence at the conference of all key outside powers, not excluding Iran.

• Trying to influence outside players like Saudi Arabia and Turkey – who back the rebel armies – to support a political solution over a military solution.

• Pressing the United States to put away the big stick and stop threatening to bomb Syria. It doesn’t help achieve a political solution.

• Promoting democratic solutions across the religious divides to help alleviate the growing sectarian hostility in Syria.

• Working with the world community to guarantee major economic and social assistance to put Syria back together again as the conflict ends.