The latest round of Syrian peace talks has ended on a more hopeful note than previous attempts, according to the UN special envoy for Syria.
Staffan de Mistura, Italian-Swedish diplomat, said: “The train is ready, it’s in the station, it’s warming up its engine. It just needs an accelerator,” while the Syrian government’s delegation left without releasing a comment. The chief opposition negotiator, Nasr al-Hariri, commented: “Although we are closing this round without clear results… I can say this time was more positive.”
The UN-sponsored negotiations, known as Geneva IV, were the first in nearly a year. Beginning on 23rd February and concluding on 3rd March, they focused on discussing a potential political settlement for the conflict in the country.
A separate series of negotiations, called the ‘Astana Process’, is also taking place in neighbouring Kazakhstan. These talks focus on reaching a military settlement and are the first in which the opposition delegation is composed solely of representatives of armed groups. The most recent round of talks took place on 23rd and 24th January 2017, ending with a consensus between Iran, Russia and Turkey to monitor the enforcing of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which calls for a ceasefire and a political settlement in Syria. It was unanimously adopted on 18th December 2015.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, ahead of taking up his post on 1st January this year, told the BBC that ending Syria’s civil war would be his top priority, calling the efforts to do so “a battle for values.”
The parties of the Geneva IV talks have agreed to return for further discussion later this month.
Syrian Civil War: Timeline
18 March 2011: Security forces open fire on Daraa protest: part of Arab Spring uprisings that toppled governments across the Middle East and North Africa.
21 April 2011: Syrian president Al-Assad lifts the state of emergency that lasted almost 50 years and issues decree ìregulating the right to peaceful protest.î
May 2011: Army tanks enter areas in attempts to squash anti-regime demonstrations. US and European Union tighten sanctions on Syria.
12 November 2011: Arab League suspends Syriaís membership.
Summer 2012: Fighting spreads to Aleppo, Syriaís former commercial capital and its largest city.
June 2012: Turkey declares Syrian troops near Turkish borders will be seen as military threat after Syria shoots down a Turkish plane.
July 2012: Free Syria Army blows up three security chiefs and seizes north Aleppo.
6 January 2013: President Assad affirms he will not step down and that his vision for Syriaís future entails a new constitution and an end of opposition ìterroristî support.
19 March 2013: First documented chemical weapon attack of the war kills in Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo. The Syrian goernment continues to deploy chemical weapons, including sarin gas.
September 2014: Air strikes are launched around Aleppo and Raqqa against Islamic State from US and five Arab countries.
September 2015: Russian air strikes in Syria criticised for targeting anti-Assad rebels, not the Islamic State as Russia claimed.
10 September 2016: Russia and US agree on ceasefire between Syrian government and US-supported rebels and that, after a week, Russia and US could then join against ISIS and al-Nusra.
15 September 2016: Airstrikes in Syria cause tensions between Russia and the US as both countries blame the other for the attack.
December 2016: The Syrian government recaptures Aleppo.