Syria: talks stall, refugee count rises

Submitted by Matthew on 19 March, 2014 - 10:25

UN figures confirm there are now 2.5 million Syrian refugees, spread across Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon.

A further 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced within Syria. A further estimated 140,000 people have been killed since the conflict began.

Despite Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, their support for Assad remains firm, as does Iran’s, and deadlock continues in “Geneva II” talks.

Support from the Gulf states for the majority Sunni Syrian rebels has in turn increased, with Saudi Arabia openly increasing its aid to the rebels.

Whilst arms and logistical support continue, access to humanitarian aid and insistence has become a growing battleground. The UN has continued to negotiate access via Turkey to North Eastern Syria, and into the Kurdish controlled city of Qamishli. 9.3 million people, almost half the population remaining in Syria, now require humanitarian assistance.

Saudi Arabia has sent trucks carrying aid through Jordan into Southern Syria, as it attempts to boost the capabilities of the rebels, and push for a longer and bloodier conflict, which involves rebels and mercenaries from across the region.

In collaboration with the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah, the Syrian government has made gains against the rebels in the town of Yabroud on the Lebanese border. Rebels have lost control of the main supply and access routes into Lebanon, leading to retaliation against the Shia majority by the Sunni militia Jabhat Al Nusra.

Fighting amongst rebel factions has also failed to subside. ISIL/ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has reacted angrily to demands from Jabhat Al Nusra to begin mediation or risk being expelled from the region.

ISIL are the most brutal and uncompromising of the Sunni militias and their focus on instituting strict Islamic law and order across Syria, rather than on the overthrow of Assad, has brought them into conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated rebel majority.

Kurds in Northern Syria, who have gained a greater degree of autonomy since the beginning of the conflict, have come under increasing attack from ISIL, with Kurdish mosques under attack, as well as the burning and looting of villages. The Kurds, who along with the Shia are considered “heretics” by ISIL, are mostly practitioners of Sufi Islam, and have a history of secularism and nationalism.

ISIL and other rebels also accuse the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) of continued collaboration with the Syrian government.

Syrian troops reportedly operate in the Kurdish regions, still control the airport, and appear to operate without interference. The PYD has released contradictory statements that both identify itself as being in opposition to the regime but are also ambivalent about who controls the Syrian state, which they maintain they want to remain a part of.

The Arab chauvinism that dominates the official coalition of Syrian rebels has helped to isolate the Kurds from the rebellion.

Whilst the Kurds in Syria enjoy more freedom than people in many of the rebel controlled areas, most of the infrastructure and funding comes from the Syrian state.

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