Syrian Conflict Longer Than Two World Wars: UN Envoy

The brutal conflict that has enveloped Syria has endured longer than both world wars combined, the UN’s special envoy for the country noted on Monday on the civil war’s 10-year anniversary.

Geir Pedersen said there is a “silver lining” of what he called a “relative calm” that now exists in Syria where frontlines have remained largely stable for the past year, stressing the situation should be used to make progress on a political settlement.

“The greatest danger of all is that the fragile calm unravels, leading to a new storm of all-out conflict and all that would mean for Syrians, the region and beyond,” he told the Security Council. “That is why I will always stress, first and foremost, the importance of consolidating this fragile calm into a true nation-wide ceasefire.”

Pedersen called on council members to “not lose sight of the fundamental importance of a peaceful resolution.”

“A political solution is the only way out, and I am convinced that it is possible. In some ways, it is more possible now than before, but to turn those possibilities into realities, creative and high-level engagement from key international players with a stake in this conflict will be needed,” he said.

Syria’s conflict began on March 15, 2011, in the southwestern province of Deraa when a group of students wrote on a school wall, “It’s your turn next, doctor!” – a reference to regime leader Bashar al-Assad who was trained as an ophthalmologist.

As thousands of people took to the streets demanding reform, demonstrations soon spread to other provinces across the country. Assad’s forces clamped down violently on the intensifying protests, setting off what would become the Syrian civil war.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US’s UN envoy, placed blame for the lack of a diplomatic resolution squarely with the Assad regime and its supporters.

“The regime has not taken a single step that would lay the groundwork for peace,” she said. “We call on Russia to press the Assad regime to quit stalling. It’s time for the regime to address the conflict’s root cause: the basic demand of all Syrians to live in dignity, free from torture, abuse, and arbitrary detention.” ​​​​​​​