Another ceasefire between Syria government and rebels fighting to topple the Syrian government of Bashar Al Assad came to effect on Monday, September 12. It was brokered by Russia and the United States. This is not the first time the two super powers are negotiating a ceasefire in a bid to reduce the dire humanitarian crisis being faced by civilians in the war-torn country. But the whole world is hoping that this round of ceasefire will not only provide opportunity for aids to flood the starving population. Many want this ceasefire to be the beginning of a permanent peace deal to end the crisis.
The Syrian crisis has produced one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has witnessed in this generation. Politics in countries like France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Greece and even the United States have been greatly influenced by the effects of the influx of Syrian refugees. The popularity ratings of the leaders of these countries have been affected one way or the other by the way they handle the refugee crises.
The UN disturbed by the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, one of the largest commercial cities in Syria, had in July called for a 48 hours ceasefire to allow aid organisations take relief materials to the people trapped in the city and other places in the country. The International Committee of the Red Cross described the decision as positive one. Doctors Without Borders immediately declared their readiness to assist.
Combination of terrorist attacks by ISIS and the activities of some fundamentalists on the guise of rebels fighting government forces have turned Syria to the worst humanitarian crisis the world has witnessed after the Second World. On July 28, Russian backed troops launched a massive operation to rescue civilians in Aleppo, where years of fighting has unleashed untold hardship on residents. Three corridors were created for civilians and fighters who choose to surrender their weapons to exit the city.
The purpose was to allow relief materials by government and humanitarian organisations to reach vulnerable people like women, children and the old who were trapped in the city. They were used as human shields by terrorists and some fundamental rebel groups. It is hoped that the ceasefire will provide ample opportunity for relief materials especially water, food and medicine to reach people in desperate need of assistance.
Observers expect all parties and their backers to respect the cessation of hostilities. This will temporarily halt the mindless killings being perpetrated by parties to the conflict and allow aids get to all areas that they are needed. It would be recalled that a Russian Mi-8 helicopter delivering humanitarian materials was on August 1 downed by ground fire at Idlib. Russian authorities said the plane was returning to Aleppo when it was hit. On July 30 gunmen opened fire at Bustan El Casar, a humanitarian corridor, wounding four women.
There is no doubt that much is expected from the current ceasefire. This is particularly so because of the new found relationship between the different backers of the different parties. Russia, the US, and Turkey have demonstrated deep interest in the peace deal. Of significance is the move by embattled Turkey President, Recep Tayip Erdogan to restore warm relations with Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
Erdogan who has been persistently accused by Russia and the Syrian government of backing ISIS has of recent been doing great job down grading the terrorist groups in Syria. Many observers have passed off his newfound love with Russia as a move to save his presidency following failed military coup to topple his administration. But there is no doubt that his recent move is critical to any peace deal.
The ease with which Russian Foreign Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry pulled off the ceasefire in Geneva last week gives impression of a renewed and genuine commitment to end the crisis on both sides. It is hoped that France and Britain will also join the bandwagon of the peace process too. After all, Russia has persistently maintained that she is ready to engage in a constructive dialogue with NATO to end the conflict. But the US has remained skeptical and always appears to be suspicious of Russia real intentions.
It is this suspicion that has guided US involvement in the Syrian crisis. It also this suspicion that has made the US to take some of the most unexpected positions in the crisis. US involvement in the Syrian crisis has some elements of geo-political rivalry that has resulted in some bad decisions; one of which was the funding of some terrorists groups in its desperation to oust President Assad.These groups committed most of the atrocities that have prolonged the conflict this far.
It is not time to say uhuru yet but there seems to be some glimmer of hope now that the Syrian army has liberated most parts of Aleppo, which was the largest stronghold of the terrorists. Aleppo is the economic heart of Syria and one of the strategic points for the ISIS militants. They have been receiving reinforcements across the border with Turkey. More than ten thousand Syrian soldiers have been stationed in the eastern district of Aleppo now completely blocking the route of their weapons and ammunition supplies.
On July 29, Syrian army with the support of Kurdish militia took control of Banizeyd, the largest stronghold of ISIS. Government forces also repelled an attempt by militants to break into the southern and south-western outskirts of Aleppo occupied by the Syrian army on July, 31. Many of the fighters were killed while some surrendered to the government forces.
The Syrian authorities last week started dropping leaflets in Aleppo with instructions to civilian residents to leave the ravaged city. This is to allow the Syrian army backed by Russia to rid the city of terrorists. The Kremlin has said that the operation in Aleppo is a humanitarian exercise and not military. This is why Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, called on international organizations to join the operation. “We have repeatedly called on the warring parties to reconcile, but every time the militants violate the peace process,” he told reporters. He said the humanitarian situation in Syria demands everybody’s commitment to peace process.
The fact is that it is easier to fix a peace deal between the rebel fighters and the government forces than with ISIS. The current successes being recorded against the ISIS in Allepo will definitely aid the peace process. What remains is a genuine commitment by the two parties and their backers to end the suffering of the innocent Syrians.
The UN has welcomed the Russian initiative to help the civilian population of Aleppo. In January 2016, Russia carried out a humanitarian operation in Syria. The military-transport aircraft IL-76 of the Syrian Air Force aided by Russian paratroops dropped 22 tons of food items at Deir ez-Zor. This is what is expected of all concerned individuals and organisations now that a ceasefire is in place. It is only humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people that will build confidence that is highly needed to end the crisis not supply of arms. This should be the concern of all of us.
— Orinya wrote in from Lafia, Nasarawa State.