Syrian Rebels Shift Towards Peace Conference, Russia Offers Troops For Chemical Cleanup

It’s very early days yet but I’m beginning to think peace in Syria may, like the war has had until now, have a momentum all of its own.

The first encouraging sign comes from the main rebel group.

The President of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, has said the Coalition is ready to attend an international “peace” conference in Geneva if it aims to establish a transitional government with full powers.

…In a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Jarba said the coalition “reaffirms its willingness to engage in a future Geneva Conference” but “all parties must…agree that the purpose of the conference will be the establishment of a transitional government with full executive powers”.

Jarba also called on the Security Council to include enforcement in any resolution to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons and to take the “necessary measures” to impose a ceasefire and release thousands of activists from prison.

Reuters, which obtained a copy of the letter, does not indicate whether it repeated the condition for an Assad promise that he will give up power in advance of a conference.

The second comes from Russia (acting from its own motives, to be sure, but even so…)

Russia can send its military personnel to help in the proposed operation to eliminate Syria’s chemical arms, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says.

Mr Lavrov told Russian TV that military observers could help Syria destroy its stockpiles under a US-Russian deal.

…A large contingent of Russian troops would not be necessary – rather a small detachment of observers – Mr Lavrov told the pro-Kremlin First Channel.

Arab states and Turkey could be part of the monitoring mission, he suggested.

To be sure, someone has to do that monitoring, and that someone will sometimes get shot at by one faction or another. Better the someone be Russian than American? Very probably. Especially since the prospect of bombing Russian monitors will heavily restrict the ambitions of US warmongers who’d still like to bomb, bomb, bomb Assad regardless.

Such a monitoring mission could then be expanded, with the help of the Turks and Arab states, into a full UN-backed mission to back any ceasefire as part of a transitional move back to a stable political footing – and would help allow international humanitarian aid to flow to all of those who need it so desperately.

The end of the Syrian civil war is not yet in sight, but from here we can see where the beginning of that end might be.

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