x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Syrian crisis requires fresh set of solutions

Life remains unimaginably bleak and dangerous for those caught in the middle of Syria¿s many conflict zones. It is time to soothe their pain.

As the Syrian conflict reaches its third Ramadan, the need to break the stalemate remains as pressing as ever.

One must hope the new leadership of the Syrian opposition's National Coalition might help. The coalition members chose on Sunday a new leader, Ahmad Jarba, a tribal leader who is close to Saudi Arabia. But sceptics wonder if this is no more than the latest example of false hopes being raised.

The signals that accompany Ahmad Jarba's appointment are mixed. His close connections to Saudi Arabia should see an influx of advanced weaponry to improve the Free Syrian Army's ability to battle the better-equipped Syrian army.

He is also aligned to moderate figures in the coalition. But Mr Jarba's appointment has been preceded by weeks of internal bickering and failed meetings. And for all the focus on peace talks, neither side has shown a willingness to come to the table.

The regime has also shown that it is unwilling to end the violence. On the contrary, it has used all types of weapons to crush the uprising: from live bullets to mortar shells, tanks, the air force and even chemical weapons.

Outside powers that support the opposition recognise that the only way to push the regime to accept dialogue is to strengthen the rebels. But they have so far dragged their heels on providing the necessary weapons that might tip the balance.

If the opposition backers really want to help in Syria, they must supply the opposition forces. But they also have to better use the appropriate diplomatic channels to put an end to the conflict. Equally important, they must press the opposition to be more representative and united.

Rebel gains on the battlefield are likely to prompt the regime to make concessions that will bolster attempts to negotiate an end to this most intractable of conflicts.

All the while, however, Syria is being destroyed, with the death toll approaching 100,000 and millions of its citizens displaced internally and externally.

As Ramadan approaches, a time of year traditionally associated with contemplation and appreciation, life remains unimaginably bleak and dangerous for those caught in the middle of the country's many conflict zones. It is time to soothe their pain.