The US and Russia are renewing efforts to advance zonal de-escalation in Syria. This approach offers the most viable way to decrease violence, promote some relief for the Syrian population, and address wider European interests. But they are neglecting the need for a political framework.
European members of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) should push for an approach that focuses on national politics hand in hand with de-escalation efforts, moving away from an approach that only phases the national angle in after a ceasefire takes hold. Even if ceasefire attempts proceed piecemeal they will only be durable if negotiators tie them to a national political track.
Assad remains intent on regaining control of all of Syria, but capacity constraints will limit his progress. Europeans should support a devolution approach that incentivises a softer reintegration of non-regime controlled areas. This will provide a degree of local autonomy to remaining opposition holdouts.
France’s recent decision to support de-escalation suggests there may be an opening for Europeans to align such efforts with national politics. But the French need to focus on forging a coherent European coalition able to flex diplomatic muscle.
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