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Syria cease-fire and the day after

Yunus Paksoy 2017-01-01 06:30:00

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Turkey and Russia announced on Thursday that a nationwide cease-fire in Syria. The Turkish Foreign Ministry hailed the cease-fire deal, assuring that Turkish efforts will continue for the sake of Syrians. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hopes that the cease-fire will be beneficial for “our Syrian brothers and sisters.”

After Aleppo fell into the hands of the brutal Assad regime, more than 40,000 people in the eastern parts of the city had to leave due to threats posed by Assad’s ruthless troops and extremist Shiite militias.

One cannot foretell whether the cease-fire deal will not be broken by the Assad regime and its allies as as was the the case in previous cease-fires during which hundreds of women, children and elderly were killed. 

However, securing a cease-fire deal is essential to put an end to the suffering of tens of thousands of innocent Syrians. Since the start of Assad’s bloody war campaign against the people of Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. In addition, millions took refuge in other countries, most notably Turkey.

As part of the deal, Ankara will act as a guarantor for the opposition groups while the Kremlin will try to prevent the Assad regime from breaking the cease-fire.

However, this cease-fire is fragile. The Shiite militias supporting the regime threatened Aleppo evacuation process by shooting at innocent civilians. Nobody can guarantee that they will not make a move to spoil the cease-fire. However, Turkey and the opposition need to put a little faith into the deal.

If all goes well during the cease-fire, representatives from the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition fighters will meet in Astana in mid-January to kick off peace talks. The opposition assured on Thursday at a press conference in the Turkish capital that they will do their best to reach a political solution and attend peace talks.

Media reports have said that Assad will leave power in 2019 and “a less-polarising Alawite” will be his successor. There is a big question mark whether the opposition and the people of Syria will agree to that.

The opposition and the Assad regime will talk about the future of Syria. Both sides have already affirmed that a political solution is the ultimate goal. However, whether Ankara and opposition groups are consent that Assad will remain in power until 2019 is blurry and hard to foretell.

One thing is very clear: People of Syria should decide who will be Assad’s successor. For years, the will of millions of Syrians has been ignored and disrespected. Now that there is a chance to end the Syrian tragedy, the dictator who has made millions suffer for years needs to find the fastest way to a political solution.

As it is the only country both on the ground and at the table to advocate for the sake of Syrians, Turkey should closely monitor the recently-agreed cease-fire and not let the Assad regime or Shiite groups manipulate the peace talks from now on. It is high time to do so.

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Yunus Paksoy is the chief reporter of the Istanbul-based Turkish newspaper DAILY SABAH. Paksoy has covered Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria and the Mosul Operation in Iraq and focuses on developments in Syria, the Middle East and Turkey’s southeast.

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