Syria drops off the radar at UN general assembly

Syria’s war has taken a new turn with the expected recapture of Raqa from the IS, but world leaders gathered at the United Nations this week seem to be paying little attention.
Once the focal point of a myriad of high-powered meetings during the UN General Assembly, Syria this year dropped off the diplomatic agenda, dwarfed by the crises over North Korea.
The IS group is close to defeat in its two remaining Syrian strongholds: Raqa and Deir Ezzor.
Russia, Iran and Turkey have set up four “de-escalation zones” in Syria and are working with the United States and Jordan in the south to bring about ceasefires that have eased the violence.
“The war in Syria is not over yet,” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reminded foreign ministers at an EU-hosted meeting on Syria on Thursday.
But she acknowledged “the situation on the ground has improved. Daesh (IS) has been driven out from its strongholds,” and fighting has eased.
Now in its seventh year of war that has left 330,000 dead, Syria has become an extremely complex conflict, but diplomatic efforts remain low profile. The Kurdish issue and Israel’s growing involvement are shaping up as new crises, diplomats say.
“Nothing is resolved”, said a European diplomat, who asked not to be named. During his address to the assembly, French President Emmanuel Macron called for the establishment of a new Syria “contact group” to push for a diplomatic solution.
Russia and the United States reacted coolly to the proposal.
The administration of President Donald Trump has yet to define its Syria strategy beyond fighting IS militants.
“The Americans have dropped out of the search for a political solution,” said the European diplomat. “Their focus is solely military: defeating IS.”
The United Nations is planning to convene a new round of peace talks in the coming weeks between Syria’s government and the opposition, even though past negotiations have failed to yield more than incremental progress.
The UN-brokered negotiations have hit a wall over opposition demands for a political transition. At a pledging conference in Brussels in April, countries offered $6 billion in aid to rebuild post-war Syria, but the European Union has made clear the money will not flow until there is a deal on a transition. — AFP

Cécile Feuillatre