The Syrian civil war has reached a stalemate and President Bashar al-Assad's government will call for a ceasefire at a long-delayed conference in Geneva on the state's future, the country's deputy prime minister has said in an interview with the Guardian.
Speaking on behalf of the government, Qadri Jamil said that neither side was strong enough to win the conflict, which has lasted two years and caused the death of more than 100,000 people. Jamil, who is in charge of country's finances, also said that the Syrian economy had suffered catastrophic losses.
"Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," he said. "This zero balance of forces will not change for a while."
If accepted by the armed opposition, a ceasefire would have to be kept "under international observation", which could be provided by monitors or UN peace-keepers – as long as they came from neutral or friendly countries, he said.This is another move in a very murky conflict. My impression is that this is the first time that the Assad government has talked in terms of anything other than final victory. It does imply the possibility of some sort of negotiated settlement.
Leaders of Syria's armed opposition have repeatedly refused to go to what is called Geneva Two unless Assad first resigns. An earlier conference on Syria at Geneva lasted for just one day in June last year and no Syrians attended.
The problem word in that is negotiated. That requires two or more parties. There is no one group that can speak for or commit all the rebels. It seems plausible that Russia has been instrumental in pushing the government to this point. If the US and its friends carry any influence with the major rebel factions, then it would seem like this is the time to use it in an effort to find a less violent path forward in this awful mess.