Leading article: Progress in Syria – but not enough

 

Share
Related Topics

The ceasefire in Syria so far has been patchy, inadequate, and violated by both sides, most egregiously by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, who have broken a pledge to withdraw from all towns and cities and bombarded districts of Homs again yesterday. But the – distinctly relative – calm has shown that a ceasefire, however imperfect, is an improvement on the free-for-all that proceeded it, with the glaring imbalance of power between the regime and the opposition exacting a murderous toll.

The very small number of UN observers – six were preparing to enter Syria late yesterday, with another 20 or so on their way – only serves to underline the size of the task ahead. But the presence on Syrian territory of blue helmets at all is welcome progress. Two months ago, the UN process broke down in acrimony after a transition plan drawn up by the Arab League was vetoed by Russia and China. Britain and the United States heaped the blame on Russia, insisting that Syrian blood would be on its hands.

Even if that plan had passed, however, there can be no certainty that it could have been acted upon. Mr Assad had rejected it. There was no alternative diplomatic process and no basis for even the degree of intervention currently agreed. It may be that the difference between then and now is that Russia and China were so shocked by the mounting bloodshed that they reversed tracks. But the unanimous Security Council vote at the weekend to dispatch observers also follows much more careful diplomatic preparation, under the auspices of the special envoy, Kofi Annan, which included consultation in Moscow and Beijing and less overt sabre-rattling on the part of the Western powers.

The ceasefire will remain, at best, shaky. But a united international approach will be key. Mr Assad must not be given the luxury of exploiting foreign divisions to extend his time in power. Even if it does not explicitly stipulate the regime's departure, the six-point Annan programme is the best, indeed the only, plan on offer, and reducing the carnage has to be the first priority.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: I am currently recruiting level 3 n...

Are you a Teacher interested in Special Needs?

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified Teacher w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Photo issued by Flinders University of an artist's impression of a Microbrachius dicki mating scene  

One look at us Scots is enough to show how it was our fishy ancestors who invented sex

Donald MacInnes
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  

Oscar Pistorius sentence: Judge Masipa might have shown mercy, but she has delivered perfect justice

Chris Maume
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album