This piece originally appeared on USIP.org.

Full Article: https://www.usip.org/publications/2020/11/best-hope-sustained-de-escalation-syria 

By Mona Yacoubian

As the conflict in Syria approaches its 10th anniversary, a holistic political settlement encompassing the entirety of the country is unlikely in the near to medium term. More than eight years of diplomatic initiatives have yielded only limited results. The two principal tracks—the Geneva and the Astana/Sochi processes—are running up against the complexity of the conflict and an emboldened Assad regime; neither process is sufficient on its own to generate momentum toward a lasting political settlement for the whole of Syria. However, creatively bridging these two processes could bring greater stability to those areas of Syria still beyond the Assad regime’s control, assuaging the suffering of some Syrians, and potentially serving as a building block for a longer-term settlement.

Barring a major strategic shift in diplomacy, developments on the ground could render both diplomatic efforts obsolete. Instead, negotiation efforts should pivot to develop innovative approaches to bridge the Geneva and Astana processes. This bridging effort would focus on consolidating fragile cease-fires in Syria’s northwest and northeast regions, and anchoring some semblance of stability in these areas through improved humanitarian access and enhancing local governance structures.

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