Meeting Summary

Chatham House

This is a summary of the discussions that took place during a small closed-door study group convened at Chatham House in April 2012 to discuss the latest developments in Syria.

Some of the main findings include:

  • The UN mission to monitor the declared 'cease-fire' was not expected to make much progress towards resolving the conflict in Syria, but there were some hopes that it would reduce violence enough to enable peaceful protests, reduce the risk of further militarization of the conflict and provide some space for opposition groups to build political alliances and develop a strategy. 
  • On the downside, it was not clear how the UN mission would define failure, what level of violence would need to be reached for the 'cease-fire' to be declared to be over, or what the UN's next steps would be. The regime's behaviour suggests it remains confident that there will not be international intervention.
  • While divisions in the opposition are to be expected in a context of such heavy repression, they have also allowed the Syrian government to claim that it does not have a partner to negotiate with. 
  • The international community, and the Arab League in particular, has encouraged the SNC to broaden representation within its executive committees to include figureheads from other opposition groups. An opposition restructuring committee has now been established, comprising five members of the SNC and five from other groups, with the aim of uniting a broader coalition of opposition forces behind a common agenda.
  • There are three main scenarios for Syria: an intensification of diplomatic efforts and the resolution of the crisis through political processes; the arming of rebels by the international community, leading to an escalation of military confrontation; and a slide into civil war, seen as increasingly likely by the workshop participants. 
  • Any long-term solution to the Syrian crisis will need to tackle its root causes, which, as in the other Arab countries that experienced revolutions over the past year, include unemployment, corruption and rising food prices.

The meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule and the views expressed are those of the participants. 

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