On Friday 26th February, a ceasefire fell over Syria for the first time since the fighting began, in 2010. The ceasefire is extremely fragile, one tiny action by either side could wreak the ceasefire and begin the fighting again. The UN has taken the opportunity to step up its delivery of aid to more remote areas of the country, aiming to reach 1.7 million people by the end of March.
The ceasefire does not mean peace; it simply means that the people of Syria can begin to rebuild, the aforementioned UN aid deliveries can be moved forward and the world’s governments have more time to discuss the situation. However, the planes and helicopters still fly through the skies and people with guns still stand on street corners.
The deal, which was mainly brokered by America and Russia, excludes the so-called Islamic State (IS) and other terrorist groups, such as Nusra Front (linked to Al Qaeda). Because of this, the Syrian government, the Syrian Kurdish groups and the Syrian rebels say that they have no option but to continue fighting these groups.
Whilst the ceasefire does hold still for moment, there are reports of violations of the ceasefire from all three of these parties. The French government, which has been one of the big driving forces behind the western airstrikes campaign against IS and Nusra Front, has expressed concerns that the Syrian government and the Russian air force may have broken the ceasefire, striking areas held by the Syrian rebels. Russia insists it has only been striking areas held by IS and as such, is completely within the terms of the ceasefire. There has been no response to the French governments’ claims from the Syrian rebels.
Russia has put forward its own argument for the ceasefire being broke, it claims that the ceasefire has been broken 31 times. The state doesn’t give details as to whom has broken the ceasefire but was quick to defend itself against the French government’s claims. Russia’s general involvement in the war has been controversial, claims emerge almost weekly that the nation is using the war to strengthen its own position, rather than bring down the so-called IS, which is what they officially entered the conflict to do. They there is very little evidence that Russia is using the Syrian conflict for its own needs.
One of the biggest things that the ceasefire has given is that the UN can begin to drop and deliver aid to remote areas of Syria that cannot be reached in times of war. As three out of the four sides involved in the war have temporarily laid down their armaments, the UN can run aid through zones which were previously in conflict. The first deliveries began to arrive on Monday 29th February. One of the main areas the UN need to reach is the capital city of Damascus, which has seen fighting since the Syrian army and rebels began to clash on the outskirts of the city in January 2012.
The ceasefire will not hold forever, there are too many unresolved issues between the peaceful sides and the so-called IS still loom in the background. This ceasefire is incredibly important, however, the fact that the agreement has even come forth shows progress. Although perhaps the most important thing to have come from the ceasefire is the simplest: a chance to rebuild and recover whatever the civilians of Syria can because, ultimately, that’s who this war hit the hardest.