On 12 February, talks in Munich produced an agreement to implement a so-called cessation of hostilities in Syria within a week, and allow the delivery of aid to besieged areas.
On 15 February, however, Unicef said that Russia had bombed three hospitals in rebel held areas, and it is explicit that it will not cease its air strikes against rebel forces. Turkey shelled the positions of Syrian-Kurdish forces on every one of the three days following the Munich agreement.
In fact, the risk of direct clashes between Russia and Turkey in Syria has increased, rather than decreased, since the agreement.
The agreement explicitly allowed for bombing against Daesh to continue. The Assad regime said on 15 February that a “ceasefire” did not mean it would “stop using weapons”.
US Secretary of State John Kerry insists that the UN will “work to develop the modalities for a long term and durable cessation of violence”, and rebel spokesman Salim al-Muslat told reporters: “If we see action and implementation, we will see you very soon in Geneva”, but the rebels do not believe that the agreement will produce a real ceasefire.
The Munich deal should at least allow some new supplies to get in to besieged areas, but Ra’ad al Hussein, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “The warring parties in Syria are constantly sinking to new depths, without apparently caring in the slightest about the death and destruction they are wreaking across the country.
“Women and children, the elderly, the wounded and sick, the disabled are being used as bargaining
chips and cannon fodder day after day, week after week, month after month”.
Confirming that Syria remains stuck in a war of attrition, Russian prime minister Dimitri Medvedev said: “The Americans and our Arab partners must think hard about this — do they want a permanent war? All sides must be forced to the negotiating table instead of sparking a new world war”.
Russia’s aim is to force the US and its allies to settle for acquiescence with the Assad regime. It is
ramping up the violence so as to present that as the only alternative to chaos and increased
No big faction in Syria, nor any of their major international backers, is able to believe that current
negotiations can really bring a cessation of hostilities.
The power play between the Gulf states, the US, the EU, Iran and Russia continues to drag on,
leaving the Syrian people to suffer at their hands.
The International Business Times (13 February) reports a count by Turkish officials of around
100,000 Syrian refugees living in nine ad hoc refugee camps set up inside Syria near the Turkish border, and a tenth being built.
Further floods of refugees are likely. Europe — and Britain — should urgently open their
doors to these refugees.