Cease-fire in Syria?

Could the civil war that has claimed 9,000 lives, according to a UN estimate, be coming to a close?  Special envoy and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced today that Syria’s Bashar Assad has accepted in principle a cease-fire agreement based on a six-point plant from the UN Security Council.  However, Annan warned that the agreement was not yet complete:

Former UN chief Kofi Annan said Tuesday that Syria has agreed to a ceasefire plan, but some implementation details remain to be worked out. Annan, who’s been tasked with mediating an end to the Syria violence, received UN Security Council backing last week for a six-point proposal to ease the crisis.

“I indicated that I had received a response from the Syrian government and will be making it public today, which is positive, and we hope to work with them to translate it into action,” Annan told reporters in Beijing Tuesday after a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Reuters reported.

“So we will need to see how we move ahead and implement this agreement that they have accepted,” Annan said.

The UN Syria envoy was on a two-day trip to China after a similar trip to Moscow to try to get Russia and China to back the measure. Annan’s six-point plan calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centers, access for the distribution of humanitarian assistance, the release of political prisoners and greater freedom of movement. It also asks the Syrian government and opposition to work with Annan on a political reconciliation plan.

Until now, as ABC reminds us, China and Russia have acted to protect Assad.  They vetoed two earlier proposals to apply tougher sanctions on Syria for the Asaad regime’s attacks on demonstrators.  This time, it looks as though China and Russia put some pressure on Assad to make nice with the UN:

Annan, who is also an envoy for the Arab League, told reporters after meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing on Tuesday that he had received a “positive” response from Syria as well as support from China. He said he received a similar commitment from Russia over the weekend.

“We’ve had very good discussions about the situation in Syria. And they have offered me their full support,” Annan said after the meeting with Wen.

Wen said work on a solution to the crisis is at a “critical juncture,” adding that China backed Annan’s mediation efforts.

It took them long enough to pressure Assad.  This conflict has just passed its one-year anniversary, and the death toll is horrific:

The United Nations said on Tuesday that more than 9,000 civilians have been killed in theSyrian government’s yearlong assault on protesters opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, an increase of nearly 1,000 over its previous estimate.

“Violence on the ground has continued unabated, resulting in scores of people killed and injured,” Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the 15-nation Security Council.

“Credible estimates put the total death toll since the beginning of the uprising one year ago to more than 9,000,” he said. “It is urgent to stop the fighting and prevent a further violent escalation of the conflict.”

So far, no details of the agreement have been made public, nor of Assad’s reservations on its implementation.  If Assad agreed to it, even in principle, it’s unlikely that it will allow for a transition to democracy and freedom — although from what we’ve seen in Egypt and Libya, that might not be a bad thing at all.  It’s possible that the best outcome for the West in the short run would be a seriously weakened Assad remaining in power for a little while longer, while forces of moderation can get ahead of the Islamists and terrorists that ended up holding the power in other Arab spring nations.

In the meantime, I’m reminded of the lesson of the Zen master, from Charlie Wilson’s War:

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David Strom 6:01 AM on June 06, 2023