Syrian peace process

Muslims and Christians at a meeting with Arab League monitors in Damascus on 17 January 2012.

The Syrian peace process is the ensemble of initiatives and plans to resolve the Syrian Civil War, which has ravaged in Syria since 2011 and has spilled beyond its borders. The peace process has been moderated by the Arab League, the UN Special Envoy on Syria, Russia, and Western Powers. The negotiating parties to end the conflict are typically representatives of the Syrian Ba'athist government and Syrian Opposition, while the Western-backed Kurdish forces have stayed out of the negotiations framework. Radical Salafist forces and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have not engaged in any contacts on peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The attempts to find a solution to the conflict began in late 2011, when the Arab League launched two initiatives, but without much success. Russia in January 2012 and in November 2013 suggested talks in Moscow between the Syrian government and opposition. In March–May 2012, hopes were on a United Nations/Arab League plan coordinated by Kofi Annan. In January and February 2014, the Geneva II Conference on Syria took place, organized by Lakhdar Brahimi, then UN envoy to Syria. On 30 October 2015, further talks started in Vienna involving officials from the US, the EU, Russia, China and various regional actors such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and, for the first time, Iran.


Arab League peace plans 2011-2012

In November 2011 – January 2012, the Arab League (AL) twice tried to accomplish an end to Syrian government (and opposition) violence and convince both parties to start talks instead of fighting.

After agreement of the Syrian government to the AL plan of 19 December the AL sent a monitoring mission to Syria. Violence continued and Saudi Arabia on 22 January withdrew its monitors from the mission, and called on Russia, China and all other states to pressure Syria strongly to adhere to the AL peace plan. The Arab League on 28 January 2012 ended its monitoring mission.

Russian peace initiatives for Syria

2012 'informal talks' proposal

On January 30, 2012, the Russian foreign ministry suggested “informal” talks in Moscow between the Syrian government and opposition, and said the Syrian authorities had already agreed to the Russian offer. Abdel Baset Seda, a member of the Syrian National Council’s executive committee, told Reuters that the SNC had not received any formal invitation for such talks, but would decline if one arrived: “Our position has not changed and it is that there is no dialogue with (President Bashar al-Assad)”.[1]

Feb. 2012: offering the fall of Assad

In February 2012 Martti Ahtisaari held talks with envoys of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. During those discussions the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, proposed a three-point plan, which would bring the Syrian government and opposition to the negotiation table and result in Assad stepping down as president. But, according to Ahtisaari, US, Britain and France rejected that proposal, being convinced that fall of Assad's government was inevitable. “It was an opportunity lost in 2012,” he said in an interview in September 2015. Other Western diplomats refute Ahtisaari's claims, with one stating, “I very much doubt the P3 [the US, UK and France] refused or dismissed any such strategy offer at the time. The questions were more to do with sequencing – the beginning or end of process – and with Russia’s ability to deliver – to get Assad to step down.”[2]

Brokerage Proposal, 2013

On 7 November 2013, Russia again announced it was trying to broker talks in Moscow between the Syrian government and opposition, seeing that the U.S. and Russian negotiators failed to agree on whether or not Assad should be forced out of office.[3] Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Bogdanov said, the Moscow talks could focus on humanitarian problems as well on some political issues.[3]

Friends of Syria Group, February 2012

In February 2012, the then French President Sarkozy initiated an international "contact group" to find a solution for the Syrian conflict, after Russia and China had vetoed a 4 February 2012 UN Security Council resolution.[4] The group held four meetings, all in the year 2012.

Kofi Annan Peace Plan, March 2012

The Kofi Annan (Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League) peace plan,[5] launched in March 2012, intended to commit both the Syrian government and opposition to a cease fire and commit the Syrian government to initiate deliberations with the opposition on their aspirations and concerns. After Annan on 12 April had assumed that both parties had agreed to a cease fire, the UN already on 1 May had to admit that both parties were violating it.

Geneva I, June 2012

An "action group" conference (now referred to as Geneva I Conference on Syria) was held on Saturday 30 June 2012, in Geneva, initiated by the then UN peace envoy to Syria Kofi Annan,[6] and attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, a representative of China, British Foreign Secretary Hague, and Kofi Annan.[7] Mr Annan, issuing a communiqué,[8] said that the conference agreed [9] on the need for a "transitional government body with full executive powers" which could include members of the present Syrian government and of the opposition.[7] William Hague said that all five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Russia, China, France and the UK – supported Mr Annan’s efforts.[7] Clinton however suggested that Syrian dictator Assad could, in such transitional government, not remain in power, which immediately was contradicted by Lavrov.[7]

16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement

During the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held from 26 to 31 August 2012 in Tehran, Iran and attended by leaders of 120 countries, Iran intended to draw up a new peace resolution aiming to resolve the Syrian civil war.[10] but a consensus was not reached between the leaders.

Eid al-Adha cease fire attempt, September 2012

Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat, appointed on September 1, 2012, as the new U.N.-Arab League special representative for Syria, appealed on both the Syrian government and the armed opposition to stop the killing during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, which fell that year probably on 26 October 2012, and 3 or 4 days after it. Government and most of the opposition groups said ‘yes’ to his appeal. Yet, the lull in the fighting lasted very short, according to Brahimi, after which both parties accused the other of not having stopped its violence.[6]

Geneva II, 2014

The Geneva II Middle East peace conference was a United Nations (UN) backed international (peace) conference, aimed at bringing Syrian government and opposition together to discuss a transitional government. Lakhdar Brahimi, UN special envoy to Syria, tried to pursue the conference in close cooperation with the U.S. and Russia. It started on 22 January 2014 and ended on 31 January; no agreement was reached.

Four Committees Initiative

The Four committees initiative is a proposal put forward by United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura on 29 July 2015 as a way to start the peace process in the Syrian Civil War.[11] There had been no peace talks on Syria since the Geneva II meetings in early 2014 ended in failure.[12]

Zabadani Ceasefire Agreement

In September 2015 Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian government, announced a six-month truce between the rebel-held town of Zabadani near Damascus and two Shia towns in the north-west of Syria. The deal was reached after mediation from Iran.[13]

Vienna Process (since October 2015)

Further information: Syria peace talks in Vienna

On 23 October 2015, the Foreign Ministers of the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey met and talked in Vienna, Austria, to find a way to end the Syrian conflict.[14]

On 30 October 2015, the first round of the Syria peace talks were held in Vienna with foreign ministers of 20 countries participating: U.S., Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and other countries. The ministers agreed on the need of the Syrian government and opposition to start political talks.[15][16] The second round of the Vienna talks held in mid-November produced an agreement on the need to convene Syrian government and opposition representatives in formal negotiations under UN auspices with a target date of 1 January 2016.[17]

A day after a meeting of anti-government factions, including Ahrar ash-Sham, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 10 December produced a statement of principles to guide peace talks with the Syrian government,[18][19] Syrian president Bashar Assad said he would not negotiate with "foreign terrorists."[20] Russia also rejected the outcome of the meeting in Riyadh, which it said was unrepresentative and included terrorist groups.[21]

After John Kerry visited Moscow where he met his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov as well as Vladimir Putin on 15 December, it was announced that on 18 December 2015 world powers would meet in New York to pass a UN resolution endorsing the principles of the Syria peace process.[21]

On 18 December 2015, the UN Security Council, having overcome the gridlock on Syria that had persisted since October 2011,[22][23][24] unanimously passed Resolution 2254 (2015), endorsing the ISSG′s transitional plan that set out a timetable for formal talks and a unity government within six months; the resolution put UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura in charge of organising Syria talks.[25][26] However, the major powers remained divided on who should represent the Syrian opposition; no mention was made of the future role of Syrian President Bashar Assad.[27][28]

Riyadh December 2015 conference of Syrian opposition groups

On 10 December 2015, a two-day meeting started in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, aiming at unifying Syria’s opposition groups and forming an opposition delegation for the planned negotiations with the Syrian government (see Syria peace talks in Vienna#14 November 2015 meeting).[29][30]

Syrian Kurdish factions were not represented at the meeting in Riyadh.[30] Jabhat al-Nusra had not been invited because of its assumed ‘terrorist links’ or al-Qaeda ties.[30]

An agreement emerged on 12 December:[30] 34 opposition groups and individuals allied themselves as ‘the High Negotiation Committee’.[31] This included, among others, Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam, but did not include Syrian Kurds[31] and not include some moderate opposition members supported by Russia.[32] Two of the 34 members are women, augmented by a women-only advisory body known as the Women's Consultative Committee.[33]

France announced that “the Syrian opposition” had reached an agreement and had “adopted a common program” in Riyadh.[29] Apart from France and Saudi Arabia, also Turkey and Qatar supported that ‘High Negotiation Committee’.[31]

The High Negotiation Committee was tasked with identifying 15 individuals willing and able to serve on the official opposition delegation to the Geneva III negotiations, of which 3 were women.

Russia however said that those gathered in Riyadh did not represent all opposition groups and therefore were not in a position to speak on behalf of the entire Syrian opposition.[29]

Geneva III, January 2016

On Friday, 29 January 2016, a UN Peace Conference for Syria started in Geneva in Switzerland. At the first day, Syrian government and opposition refused to sit in the same room together. On 3 February 2016, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura suspended the peace talks.[34]

Russian foreign minister Lavrov commented that "the [Syrian] opposition took a completely unconstructive position and tried to put forward preconditions".[35]

Rebel commanders were cited as saying they hoped the peace talks' collapse would "convince their foreign backers, states including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, that it was time to send them more powerful and advanced weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles".[36]

The Syrian Women’s Advisory Board, Febr. 2016

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced appointment of a 12-woman advisory body, name the Women's Advisory Board (or "WAB" for short) on 2 February 2016.[37] WAB members include opposition, government sympathizers, and Islamist-tending women.[33] The WAB, however, is politically unaffiliated; the board does not participate directly in the negotiations but does advise the UN mediator on all proceedings.

The WAB has been criticized for the lack of transparency in member selection, with allegations that it is unrepresentative. The Syrian Women's Network went as far as to withdraw from the WAB based on these critiques.[38]

Cessation of Hostilities, Febr. 2016

On 12 February 2016, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) established an ISSG ceasefire task force, under the auspices of the UN, co-chaired by Russia and the United States, and issued a joint communique saying inter alia: ″An ISSG task force will within one week elaborate modalities for a nationwide cessation of hostilities."

On 22 February 2016, in Munich, foreign ministers of Russia and the U.S., as co-chairs of the ISSG,[39] announced that they had concluded a deal to seek a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria to begin a week later.[40] The deal set out the Terms for a Cessation of Hostilities in Syria. Russia and the U.S. proposed that the cessation of hostilities commence at 00:00 (Damascus time) on February 27, 2016.[39]

The ISSG countries are supposed to monitor compliance with the terms of the truce, which was pronounced as of 29 February 2016, when the ISSG task force met in Geneva, to be largely holding.[41][42]

September 2016 cease fire deal

On 10 September 2016, Russia and U.S. reached a deal on establishing a cease fire between the Syrian Assad government and a US-supported coalition of so-called 'mainstream Syrian opposition rebel groups' including umbrella group 'High Negotiations Committee' (HNC), effective from 12 September, while jointly agreeing to continue attacks on Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (former al-Nusra Front) and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).[43]

After US-led coalition air strikes on Assad's troops on 17 September, by accident, Assad on 19 September declared the ceasefire to be ended.

October Lausanne talks

On 15 October, the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Iran have talked about the Syrian war, in Lausanne.[44]

See also


  1. "Russia says Syria agrees to peace talks with opposition amid mounting pressures". Al Arabiya. 30 January 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
  2. "West 'ignored Russian offer in 2012 to have Syria's Assad step aside'". 2015-09-15. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
  3. 1 2 Canceled Syria talks may get new start in Moscow, USA Today, 7 November 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  4. "France, partners planning Syria crisis group: Sarkozy". Reuters. 4 Feb 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  5. "Six-Point Proposal Presented to Syrian Authorities". UN Security Council. 21 March 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  6. 1 2 Politically Speaking (22 August 2013). "Syria, a civil, sectarian and proxy war". The Elders. Archived from the original on 1 September 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "UN envoy calls for transitional government in Syria". BBC. 30 June 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  8. "Final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria - Geneva, Saturday 30 June 2012". UNO. 30 June 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  9. "Concluding remarks by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan at the Meeting of Action Group on Syria - Geneva, 30June2012". UN.NewsCentre. 30 June 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  11. UN chief takes aim at Russia over Syria military buildup, Middle East Eye, 17-09-2015
  12. "UN envoy to present new Syria peace proposals". Yahoo News. July 10, 2015.
  13. 'Hezbollah announces truce covering three Syrian towns'. Al Jazeera, 26 September 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  14. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 October 2015.
  15. "Syria conflict: Powers backing rivals meet in Vienna". BBC. 30 October 2015. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  16. Arch-rivals Saudi Arabia, Iran to discuss Syria face-to-face for first time, Reuters, 28-10-15
  17. "Statement of the International Syria Support Group". Official website of the European Union. 14 November 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  18. Syrian revolution and opposition forces express their commitment to the Syrian unity
  19. "Syria conflict: Opposition agrees framework for peace talks". BBC. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  20. "Assad says he won't step down, won't negotiate with 'terrorists'". DW. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  21. 1 2 "Syria conflict: US and Russia signal new push at UN". BBC. 15 December 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  22. Russia and China veto draft Security Council resolution on Syria UN website, 4 October 2011.
  23. "Russia and China Block U.N. Action on Crisis in Syria". The New York Times. 4 February 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  24. "Russian vetoes are putting UN security council's legitimacy at risk, says US". The Guardian. 23 September 2015. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  25. "Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2254 (2015), Endorsing Road Map for Peace Process in Syria, Setting Timetable for Talks". The UN website. 18 December 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  26. "Syria war: UN Security Council unanimously backs peace plan". BBC. 18 December 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  27. "U.N. endorses Syria peace plan in rare show of unity among big powers". Reuters. 19 December 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  28. "Differences remain as key sides meet for Syria talks". Aljazeera. 18 December 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  29. 1 2 3 'Saudi hails Syrian opposition meet ‘breakthrough’'. Al Arabiya News, 12 December 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  30. 1 2 3 4 'Syria Talks: Rebel Negotiations In Saudi Arabia Exclude Key Players In Syrian Opposition'. International Business Times, 13 December 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  31. 1 2 3 NRC Handelsblad, 26 January 2016. Full citation (translated from Dutch): “Late last year, Saudi Arabia has forged an alliance of 34 groups that should represent the whole opposition at the negotiations – the High Negotiation Committee. (…) In the lead up to the peace talks, Saudi Arabia has forged an alliance of 34 political and armed groups that should represent the opposition in Geneva. But that alliance does by far not include all Syrian opposition groups. The alliance is being supported by France, Turkey and Qatar. But Russia objects to the fact that radical islamic groups as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam are part of the alliance. (…) Turkey supports the High Negotiation Committee and fiercely opposes participation of Syrian Kurds.”
  32. NRC Handelsblad, 30 January 2016. Full citation (from the Dutch): “…only the delegation of the regime and some members of the moderate opposition supported by Russia had come down to Geneva”.
  33. 1 2 "How Syrian Women Landed at the UN Peace Talks and What It All Means | passblue". Retrieved 2016-09-06.
  34. "Syria conflict: Sides trade blame over talks' suspension". BBC. 4 February 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  35. ‘Syria crisis plan: Cessation of hostilities, humanitarian airdrops, peace talks laid out in Munich’., 12 February 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  36. "Backed By Russian Jets, Syrian Army Closes In On Aleppo". Reuters. 4 February 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  37. "Office of the Special Envoy for Syria Press Statement, 2 February 2016 [EN/AR]". 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
  38. "The Controversy over the Syrian Women's Advisory Board". Retrieved 2016-09-06.
  39. 1 2 "Joint Statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, as Co-Chairs of the ISSG, on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria". U.S. Department of State. 22 February 2016.
  40. Syria war pause plan agreed by world powers
  41. "Syria ceasefire task force meets, France wants answers on violations". Reuters. 29 February 2016.
  43. 'Syria's civil war: US and Russia clinch ceasefire deal'. Al Jazeera, 11 September 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  44. Teletext of the Dutch Broadcast Foundation, retrieved 16 October 2016.
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