Syria | UN-Led Negotiations Begin in Geneva; Rebels Suffer Setbacks
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- UN-Led Negotiations Begin in Geneva; Rebels Suffer Setbacks
- Assad Re-elected in a Disputed Election
- Obama Authorizes Strikes on ISIS
- Peace Talks Delayed Again as Civil War Rages On; Another Attempt at Peace
UN-Led Negotiations Begin in Geneva; Rebels Suffer Setbacks
Much-anticipated negotiations brokered by the UN between the Syrian government, members of the opposition, the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Russia began on Jan, 22, 2014, in Switzerland. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited Iran at the last minute but then quickly uninvited Syria's closest ally when it refused to accept terms of the talks requiring Assad to step aside and allow for the formation of a transition government. While there was little hope for a peace agreement, just getting the parties to the table was considered progress. The UN succeeded where the negotiators failed and brokered a cease-fire between the Syrian government and rebels to allow the evacuatation of civilians from Homs who were stuck in the besieged city, cut off from humanitarian aid.
A second round of talks opened in Geneva in February and ended—without making any progress. U.S. officials criticized the Syrian government for its lack of commitment to the peace process and its continued crackdown on both civilians and rebels. "The regime stonewalled. They did nothing except continue to drop barrel bombs on their own people and continue to destroy their own country," said U.S. secretary of state John Kerry. "And I regret to say they are doing so with increased support from Iran, from Hezbollah and from Russia." The government has dropped barrel bombs—oil drums filled with explosives and metal shards that cause widespread devastation—on wide swaths of Aleppo, forcing nearly 500,000 people from Syria's largest city.
The government placed members of the opposition coalition on a list of terrorists and said the first step in the peace process must be ending terrorism. The opposition's top priority is setting up a transitional government, and presented a road map to put such a framework in place. The proposal did not specifically mention ousting Assad.
The UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution in late February 2014 requiring that Syria allow relief agencies into the country to deliver humanitarian aid without attempting to impede or attack them. Addressing concerns of both the government and the opposition, the resolution also condemned the use of barrel bombs and terrorist attacks. While the resolution does not threaten sanctions for non-compliance (Russia would not have voted in favor of the resolution if it had), it does say "further steps" would be taken if the Syrian government is in violation.
In March 2014, government troops, with the help of Hezbollah, recaptured from the rebels the city of Yabroud, which is on the border with Lebanon and has been a key route for supplies from Lebanon. It was the last rebel stronghold in the area, handing the opposition another defeat. The fall of Yabroud followed that of Zara, another strategic city on the Lebanese border.