Moment of truth for Syria

Emergencies article written on the 28 Oct 2013

It’s rare to see a diplomatic breakthrough in the Middle East but in the last few weeks, we’ve had some glimmers of hope for Syria. Efforts by the United States and Russia to rid Syria of all its chemical weapons, as well as calling for a second Geneva peace conference next month to find a political solution are both welcome.

But we cannot be complacent. Syria is still the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and the conflict rages on and on.

More than 100,000 people have been killed and nearly seven million people have been forced from their homes, two million of them now refugees in neighbouring countries. The reality for ordinary Syrians remains bleak.

Aid from groups like Oxfam is vital to those that it reaches, but it is only a drop in the ocean. The UN aid appeal is only around 50 per cent funded.

Aid should be the clear priority, but much more needs to be done. Until the fighting and killing stop, millions of men, women and children will keep suffering on a daily basis.

Countries like Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia are fuelling this bloodshed by pouring arms and ammunition into the country. The United States has now joined the arms race, reportedly delivering light weapons and other munitions to opposition groups. These countries talk about political resolution as the only option to end this conflict, but at the same time are fanning its flames by supplying arms.

World leaders must call for all sides of the conflict to immediately halt hostilities. It would stop civilians becoming targets and being caught in the crossfire.

The truth is that Syria is not some unique intractable, unsolvable, inevitable war. The choice between military intervention and “doing nothing” is an entirely false one and must be exposed as that, and wholly rejected. There are decisive and immediate alternatives available today, such as stopping arms transfers, ramping up diplomatic pressure for a ceasefire, and pouring in aid instead. This would help alleviate the suffering, allow people to get to the assistance they need, and give peace talks a chance of success.

The international community has recently shown that they can unite. But there must be no more excuses, and no return to the divisions and half measures that have let Syrians and Syria down for so long.