The war in Syria is coming to an end. But for Syrian refugees intent on returning to their homes, the trauma of the last few years may be far from over.
The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany met in Istanbul last weekend. Among other things, they discussed facilitating refugees’ “safe and voluntary” return to their homes.
Yesterday I asked Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt whether the UK will use its influence to ensure civil society and civilians are at heart of the post-conflict resolution process.
In the conflict so far, ‘reconciliation’ has been used by Assad’s regime to mean heavy bombing, followed by forced surrender at the end of a gun. This is unlikely to lead to lasting peace. As the minister points out, past conflicts show that Syria will need post-conflict resolution which involves civil society groups and civilians. If reconciliation is a purely military process, the war is likely to continue.
It is hard to comprehend the upheaval and destruction from this war. Half a million people have been killed and more than 12 million people have been displaced since 2011. The UK must do all it can to create a solid foundation for peace.