As the civil war in Syria enters the midpoint of its fifth year, both Syrians and the world are trying to find a way to make peace in the country.
A new Syria meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland is set for Saturday in an effort to resurrect a recent cease-fire.
Russia, the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and possibly Qatar will meet in the latest effort.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests – which erupted as part of the Arab Spring uprisings – with unexpected ferocity.
The Syrian Center for Policy Research, a Beirut-based NGO, has put the total death toll from the five-year conflict at more than 470,000.
More than 10 million have been displaced, according to UN figures.
The conflict in Syria has driven more than 4 million people – one-sixth of the country’s population – to seek sanctuary in neighboring countries, making it the largest refugee crisis in a quarter of a century, according to the UN.
Some landmarks in efforts to make peace in Syria are as follows:
Arab League plan
The Arab League acted in November 2011 to get the Syrian regime and opposition to sit down at the same table.
A peace plan was formed requiring that the army and armed opposition both withdraw their forces from the streets.
Arab League observers began their duty under the plan that December in Syria.
But the observers left the country in January 2012 due to various breaches of the plan. The league shut down its observer mission on Jan. 28, 2012.
In March 2012, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League mediator in Syria, drew up a plan that required both sides to announce a truce and some reforms by the Syrian government at the request of the opposition.
Annan announced in April that both sides had accepted the truce. But in May he announced that both the Syrian government and the opposition had breached the plan several times.
He stepped down from his post as a mediator in August 2012.
Geneva 1 conference
On June 30, 2012, the foreign ministers of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members – the U.K., U.S., Russia, China, and France – along with Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, and Qatar took part in a meeting in Geneva.
The group, known as the Syrian Action Group, announced that a transitional government for Syria would be formed consisting of the government and the opposition. But the plan was never realized due to disagreements over whether to include regime leader Bashar al-Assad in the transitional government.
Geneva 2 conference
After discussions between the U.S. and the Russia, it was decided to hold a second conference in Geneva.
Annan’s successor Lakhdar Brahimi moderated the negations, which began on Jan. 22, 2014, but it failed to reach an agreement.
That February after the second round, Brahimi said, “I am very, very sorry and I apologize to the Syrian people.”
The International Syria Support Group, bringing together 20 powers and international organizations, came together in the Austrian capital Vienna in October 2015 to end the crisis in Syria.
A second round was held in November, and it was decided to restart talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition. Jan. 1, 2016, was set as a target date for UN talks.
In December 2015, the EU Security Council decided to support the International Syria Support Group’s transitional government in Syria. UN Syria Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura was posted for the negations.
Geneva 3 conference
The third round of the Geneva conference began on Feb. 29, 2016. Representatives of the opposition and the government refused to sit in the same room for negotiations and did not agree on a plan.
In February, Mistura announced that he had suspended the talks. The High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition announced that they would not return to the talks due to attacks and the blockade.
The Syrian government accused the opposition of acting in line with the wishes of other countries, adding that it was responsible for the talks’ suspension.
Although Mistura said that the peace talks would resume during the summer, they did not.
Cessation of hostilities
On Feb. 12, 2016, during the Syria talks in Munich, Germany co-chaired by Russia and the U.S., a deal was reached stipulating that a nationwide cessation of hostilities would begin a week later and humanitarian aid would be sent to areas under siege.
During the second round of the talks on Feb. 27 joined by Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey, participants decided to declare a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria.
Daesh and al-Nusra were not included in the deal, which was short-lived due to violations.
2016 cease-fire deal
On Sept. 10, 2016, Russia and the U.S. agreed to a new cease-fire deal between the Syrian regime and the opposition.
The cease-fire, which began on Sept. 12 and did not include Daesh or al-Nusra, ended on Sept. 17 when U.S. forces fired at Syrian soldiers.
The Syrian regime claimed that the attack had been planned and ended the cease-fire. Hundreds of children lost their lives, and Russia attacked especially the city of Aleppo.
On Saturday, Russia, the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and possibly Qatar will meet in Lausanne, Switzerland in an effort to revive hopes for peace in Syria.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will represent Turkey at the talks.
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