Faint hope for Syria

2013-03-10 08:37
Sirië se landsvlag

Sirië se landsvlag

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Paris - After two years largely on the sidelines, the international community is finally showing signs of taking action on Syria's escalating conflict but analysts say it may be a case of too little too late.

Foreign efforts to stem the country's conflict have been paralysed since March 2011 protests against President Bashar al-Assad sparked a crackdown, armed uprising and eventually a full-blown civil war.

The rising tide of violence - with more than 70 000 killed and one million fleeing the country - has done little to push foreign powers to overcome deep divisions on how to tackle the crisis.

"The diplomacy has very clearly not kept up with the situation on the ground," said Salman Shaikh of the Brookings Doha Centre, describing the Western and Arab nations backing Syria's opposition as a "Coalition of the Unwilling".

But analysts saw moves since last month, including British and US decisions to supply direct aid to rebel fighters battling Assad's regime, as tentative steps towards a new international response to the crisis.

"Things are starting to move... I have the feeling that people are starting to wake up," said Joseph Bahout, a Middle East expert and professor at Science Po in Paris.

Less of an impasse

"We're at less of an impasse than we were six months ago," agreed Christopher Phillips, a lecturer on the Middle East at the University of London. "That sense of urgency has ratcheted up."

Phillips said US President Barack Obama's election to a second term in November has freed his administration to act in the face of Syria's worsening humanitarian crisis.

Obama's newly minted secretary of state, John Kerry, gave the first sign of a US shift last month by announcing food and medical aid to the rebels and an extra $60m million in support to the country's political opposition.

Experts said the move was hardly a game-changer, but did send an important signal.

"The direct financing and recognition of the Free Syrian Army is an evolution in American thinking," a French diplomatic source said. "They have broken through a barrier."

Britain went further on Wednesday, announcing it would send non-lethal military aid including body armour and armoured vehicles to the rebels.

"The fact remains that diplomacy is taking far too long and the prospect of an immediate breakthrough is slim," Foreign Secretary William Hague said while announcing the aid.

Read more on:    syria  |  syria conflict

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