Current state of affairs in Syria

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The GIMUN 2016 Annual Conference, held from March 7th to 11th at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, gathered around 200 students for a model UN. Yes, it was a month ago, but it turns out the GIMUN Chronicles journalists had not said their last word! When the conference ended, they still had a few more articles left for us…

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Press Conference Intra-Syrian Talks with Bashar Ja’afari representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the UN, Geneva, 2016.03.16. UN Photo/Anne-Laure Lechat.

 

By Taner Toraman

As the peace talks are gearing up in Geneva, major changes have been recently taking place in Syria. The cessation of hostilities has been holding, by and large, for two weeks now, which enabled humanitarian aid to reach hundreds of thousands of Syrians. During a press encounter on March 9, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, informed the world about what has been achieved so far on the ground.

While from an international point of view the cessation of hostilities was treated as an open-ended concept, some sides have indicated that there will be an end to it after two weeks, which would coincide with the beginning of the Syrian peace talks. The UN is advocating, of course, for maintaining the ceasefire.

Less than a month ago, the UN humanitarian task force was given the objective to open access to 18 besieged areas and even bigger, hard-to-reach areas. In the four weeks since then, they have reached ten areas, several of them with multiple convoys. While the UN has had progress in reaching people from Yarmouk, the World Food Program is working to overcome obstacles in order to execute airdrops to Deir ez-Zor. This way, the UN and its big mix of humanitarian partners will reach the majority of the besieged areas soon.

Unfortunately, six important besieged areas have still not been reached, including Darayya and Duma. The task force needs permits and security guarantees in order to reach these places as well.

There has also been progress made on the procedural side of things. Asking for permission to go to places takes too much time and, quite often, the task force isn’t allowed to go after all. The new procedures, which will be introduced in April, will make things faster and easier. This will hopefully put an end to the fact that there are besieged Syrian people who are starving, even though sufficient supplies are available for them.

The humanitarian task force aims to reach nearly 900’000 people by the end of April in those hard-to-reach areas and besieged locations. Another 600’000 Syrian people outside of the aforementioned areas are also in dire need of help. Furthermore, there are about 300’000 people in Aleppo who are increasingly finding themselves under a partial siege. But beyond these hundreds of thousands in Syria, there is still the bigger picture of millions of refugees all over the Middle East who need food, water, sanitation, medical supplies, winter support, shelter support, education and so on, every month.

The progress that has been made can be attributed to Russia and the United States, who have facilitated humanitarian access over the last weeks. The talks in Munich in February, which have led to the cessation of hostilities, are considered to be a turning point. It was the first time when member states helped the UN task force to get humanitarian access. It remains to be seen if the newly found momentum will be maintained or will even accelerate due to the peace talks this week.

Regarding the proceedings and organization of the peace talks themselves, please see issue No. 5 of this year’s GIMUN chronicles, page 14.

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