Ending Syria’s Atrocities Is a Prerequisite to Ending Its War

Ken Roth at Human Rights Watch:

ScreenHunter_1645 Jan. 24 16.45The warring parties in Syria are to resume talks in Geneva on January 25 with the aim of ending a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions. What will it take for the talks to succeed?

In October in Vienna, the main foreign actors in the war, including Russia, adopted guiding principles for the talks. They speak of the eventual defeat of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) “and other terrorist groups,” maintenance of Syria’s prewar borders, and the protection of minority groups and state institutions.

Yet major points of dispute remain, and the Vienna principles outline no plan to build the trust among the warring parties needed to facilitate difficult compromises. Diplomacy will not be enough if the warring parties continue the attacks on civilians and other atrocities that are driving Syrians apart.

The war has continued for so long in part because both the Syrian government and the armed groups aligned against it believed that they could prevail militarily. Russia’s entry into the war may have helped to dispel those illusions. Its airpower has been enough to bolster the Syrian government against collapse but not to make significant progress against the opposition. Meanwhile, the rise of ISIS and its demonstrated ability to attack in Europe, as well as the mass exodus of Syrian refugees, have led many external actors to renew their push for a political compromise. They hope to encourage their Syrian allies to fight ISIS and other extremist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra rather than each other.

More here.