Weekly News Brief: 30/01/2017

STAND’s Weekly News Briefs are compiled weekly by members of the STAND Education Task Force.

This week’s update focuses on Syria in the last few days of development. Peace talks over securing the current ceasefire began on Monday in Kazakhstan however planned UN-led peace talks have been postponed until the end of February. The UK has announced that it now advocates fro Assad to stand for re-election as president whilst over in the US, Trump has issued an executive order banning migrants from 7 Muslim-majority countries.

Middle East and North Africa

Syria

After the latest examples of despair in Syria, the Syrian government and rebel Peace talks in Asanta, Kazakhstan started on Monday.  These talks were meant to see the rebel delegation and the government delegation meet face to face however disagreements persisted and mediators were used. The focus of the peace talks were not about the future reconstruction of the political situation in Syria but on securing the current ceasefire. The first day ended without any significant headway, with both the government and rebel delegations having differences over interpretations of the nationwide truce. The rebel delegation was sceptical about Iran’s commitment to the ceasefire as they have backed the Syrian government through the civil war. According to diplomatic sources, “the role of Iran has been problematic for the rebels within the talks.” The external players of Russia, Turkey and Iran have agreed upon a framework to support the delicate ceasefire. The three nations are committed to “minimising violence, building confidence, ensuring humanitarian access, protection and free movement of civilians” according to a statement by Abdrakhmanov, the Kazakh foreign minister.  This framework could be the first step towards United Nations led negotiations in Geneva, presumably concerned with forming an initial plan to post-war political reconstruction.

The UN led peace talks were planned to start on February 8 but Russia has reportedly postponed the negotiations until the end of the month.  The UN could not confirm that this was the case.

Furthermore, the UK government has reversed its existing policy that Bashar al-Assad should stand down. Foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, advocated that the Syrian president should “be allowed to run for re-election in the event of a peace settlement in Syria.” Whether this will become endorsed by other senior civil servants in the British government is unknown but this is a decisive departure from the established policy since the beginning of the Civil War.

Lastly, the US president, Donald Trump has issued a blanket ban on Syrian refugees. The policy, signed on the 27 January, will “indefinitely close US borders to refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria and impose a de facto ban on Muslims travelling to the US from” Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. The restrictions may not limit the number of Syrian- Christian refugees.

Jamila Phillips is the Education Officer on STAND UK’s Education Taskforce. She is an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge and her areas of expertise within STAND are Syria and Yemen.

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