Syria: five years of efforts to end the conflict

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BEIRUT (Parliament Times) – US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov meet on Saturday in Lausanne in the latest bid to ease the bloodshed in Syria.

UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura will also attend, along with the chief diplomats from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — all backers of Syrian opposition forces.

There have been multiple diplomatic pushes since the conflict erupted in 2011 but all have ended in failure. Here is a recap.

November 2, 2011: The Arab League says it has reached an agreement with Syria to end the fighting, free detainees and withdraw troops from cities.

No clauses are respected. The League later suspends Syria and approves unprecedented sanctions.

In early 2012, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government formally rejects the plan and says it is determined to crush the rebellion.April 12, 2012: UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan manages to establish a truce, but it collapses within hours.

June 30, 2012: An “action group” meeting in Geneva says it has reached agreement on a Syrian transition of power.

But those present — Arab states, Britain, China, France, Russia, Turkey and the United States — have different interpretations of the deal.

Washington says it marks the start of a “post-Assad” period. Beijing and Moscow maintain that it is up to the Syrians to determine their own future.

September 14, 2013: Russia and the United States agree to dismantle Syria’s chemical arsenal after an attack — widely blamed on Assad’s regime — kills hundreds of people near Damascus.

The last-minute deal averts threatened US-led air strikes against the regime, which denies carrying out the attack.

January 22-31, 2014: The Russia-backed Syrian government and US-supported opposition figures hold talks in Switzerland without results.

February 15: UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who replaced Annan, ends the talks. He resigns on May 13 after more than 20 months of fruitless efforts and is replaced in July by Staffan de Mistura.

October 30, 2015 : A month after Russian air strikes begin in Syria at the request of Damascus, 17 countries including Russia, the United States and for the first time Iran, meet in Vienna.

The regime and opposition are absent from the talks, which break up amid deep disagreement over Assad’s fate.

November 14: World diplomats gathered in Vienna agree on a fixed calendar for Syria’s future but remain sharply at odds over Assad.December 18, 2015: For the first time, the UN Security Council unanimously adopts a plan for a political solution, including negotiations between the opposition and the regime as well as a ceasefire. The text provides for a transitional government within six months and elections within 18 months.February 3, 2016: UN-sponsored talks between the opposition and government are suspended amid a regime offensive against the rebels in the Damascus region, backed by Russian air power.February 27: A US-Russia brokered “cessation of hostilities” comes into force. Accepted by the regime, the opposition and Syrian Kurdish forces, it excludes the main militant factions.

March 14-24: A first round of indirect negotiations between the regime and opposition takes place under UN auspices, without making progress.

April 13: Peace talks open in Geneva. On April 18, the opposition postpones its “formal participation” in the talks in protest over escalating violence.

September 22: Syria’s regime backed by Russian air strikes presses a major offensive against rebels in the battered city of Aleppo following the collapse of a short-lived US and Russia-brokered ceasefire earlier in the month.

October 8: Russia vetoes a UN draft resolution demanding an end to the bombing of Aleppo. It is the fifth time Russia has used its veto to block UN action on the war.