The temporary truce in Syria, which began Friday, was a helpful if tenuous sign that there might yet be a political solution to the country’s 19-month-old civil war, which has left 30,000 dead.
Though the four-day truce, to coincide with Eid-al-Adha, was brokered by the international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and endorsed by the UN Security Council, there were no arrangements for monitoring compliance. Sporadic fighting broke out and soon intensified, showing that a resolution to the conflict may still be months away. On Friday, the first day of the ostensible truce, reports suggested that there were about half the usual number of the deaths, before the situation deteriorated through the weekend.
President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels do not even agree on the conditions for peace. Some in the opposition do not agree with others who favour negotiation with the embattled president.
In the meantime, the West, including Canada, could consider broadening humanitarian efforts to assist the more than 358,000 refugees from Syria who have fled to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Lebanon itself is at risk of becoming increasingly destabilized following the assassination of the Lebanese intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan, a Sunni who stood up to the Assad regime, and who had protected many whom the Assad regime would otherwise have eliminated. Many political figures have put themselves under their own “house arrest,” to avoid being assassinated.
On Oct. 14, anti-Syrian-government protesters in Beirut stormed the Grand Serail – the prime ministerial headquarters – blaming the killing on Syria, and accusing Lebanon’s government of failing to protect him. Lebanon’s Sunni population, along with Saudi Arabia, support Syria’s rebels, while Shiites and Hezbollah, along with Russia and Iran, back the dying regime of Mr. al-Assad.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that as many as 700,000 Syrian refugees will have fled abroad by the end of the year. The global community could certainly do more to assist them. Why should Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have to host all of those seeking a safe haven?
The UNHCR has urged European countries to keep their borders open to Syrians and consider granting them asylum. Under the government refugee sponsorship program in Canada, Syrians could also be resettled here. But for those who cannot or do not want to leave, even a partial truce would have been some relief.