Editorial: Drive for peace in Syria welcome

Last updated 13:00 21/01/2014

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OPINION: News that the Western-backed Syrian opposition group will be attending a coming peace conference is clearly welcome news. Let's hope it's not another false dawn. For the sake of the Syrian people, a solution has to be found - and fast.

Really, there is no other way to end 33 months of horror, bloodshed and savagery that have left at least 130,000 dead, thousands more injured and millions of Syrians displaced, both within and outside the bitterly divided country.

The Syrian National Coalition was under huge pressure from its Western and Arab sponsors to attend the peace talks this week after President Bashar Assad's government said it would attend.

As expected, not all are in favour of the talks. Starving inhabitants of the besieged suburbs of Damascus have warned that the government is seeking to manipulate the talks in Switzerland with hollow 11th-hour offers of ceasefire and humanitarian relief.

Urged by the United States and Russia to offer "confidence-building measures", the Syrian government has offered a ceasefire in the northern city of Aleppo and prisoner exchanges in recent days. Activists on the ground in Syria have accused the regime of insincerity and the West of ignoring human rights abuses. However, given all the bloodshed in this sad conflict, there has been little if any unity even among the opposition.

These talks have long been delayed as Syria and Russia stalled in a premeditated campaign to weaken the opposition, hoping that gains on the battlefield would result in a stronger position at the table when the talks begin. This has not happened.

The major stumbling block to any resolution is the future of Mr Assad. The coalition want the "removal of the butcher from power" while the Syrian government rejects that demand out of hand. The talks are at least a start.

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- The Nelson Mail

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