Good News: partial ceasefire in Syria
Starting with some Good News, as we always like to do, we have some at least pretty good news from an unexpected place: Syria. As I write this a week in, a partial ceasefire in Syria appears to be holding. It's tenuous and limited, but in the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it's holding "by and large." Fighting has not completely stopped, but it's level is far below what it had been.
Each side side (I'm tempted to say "of course") accuses the other of any and all violations of the ceasefire. Asaad al-Zoubi, a senior official from Syria's main opposition group said on February 29 that the truce was in danger of collapse because of attacks by government forces while President Bashar al-Assad says he and his government have made every effort to keep the peace in the face of violations by the opposition "but everything has a limit."
Part of the problem in sorting out competing claims of violations of the ceasefire is that it doesn't apply to everyone: Military jihadist groups such as Islamic State and the Nusra Front, which have been responsible for some of the worst violence, can still be targeted. Russia, at least, has made it clear it intends to keep bombing those groups - while there is a question as to whether or not Russia, an ally of Assad, is confining its attacks to those groups rather than aiming at Assad's opposition.
There are three main goals for the ceasefire, one being the ceasefire itself, at least a pause in at least some of the killing. Another, specific, point is to allow aid convoys to get to rebel-held areas, to bring relief to an estimated 154,000 people living in besieged areas. The aid includes food, water, sanitation supplies, and medicine, as well as more mundane items like blankets, soap, and diapers. That aid has been getting through, although again there are troubles, in this case reports that some of Assad's forces are holding up aid convoys and even claims that they are taking items for themselves.
The other purpose of the ceasefire is to allow for the resumption of peace talks, which collapsed before they started last month when rebel groups said they couldn't negotiate during on-going airstrikes. Now, they are set to begin in Geneva on March 9. So that is the next big target date.
Will they actually start? Let's just get to that start, one thing at a time, we'll worry about keeping them going after that when they actually start.
In any event, there is for now at least a partial, tenuous, ceasefire in Syria. That doesn't sound like much, but in the face of what has happened there the past five years, yeah, this is good news.
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