Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Initial momentum to secure peace in Syria must be built on

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2016-02-02 08:39

Initial momentum to secure peace in Syria must be built on

Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al Jaafari attends the opening of the Syrian peace talks at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

With representatives of Syrian government and the opposition beginning talks on a ceasefire and peace-building process for the war-torn country in Geneva on Friday, the global leaders of more than 70 countries are scheduled to gather in London on Thursday to galvanize international resources and deliver assistance to the millions of people in Syria and neighboring regions desperately in need of help.

In Syria, where one family in two is homeless and three million children have no access to education due to the nearly five-year war, the two developments are encouraging signs, especially if the highly-anticipated peace talks can produce any result.

In reality, the consequences of the war that resulted from the "Arab Spring" protests in late 2010, which toppled governments in West Asia and North Africa, are still unfolding, spreading across its borders and affecting many countries.

Syrian refugees are braving the hazardous journey and flooding into Turkey, Greece and Italy, other European countries are sharing the burden of accepting the influx of migrants. Last year alone, Germany received one million.

But over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, due to domestic political pressure, announced that once peace is restored in Syria, the refugees must return home, which is really "mission impossible."

European leaders are considering stopping the Schengen visa program and closing borders, which would certainly have a negative impact on the European Union economy.

The complexity of the migrant issue has consumed European leaders' time, energy and resources and thus its economic development and diplomacy have suffered as a result.

However, restoring peace in Syria will not be an easy process.

From the very beginning, some Western countries have been determined to get rid of the Bashar al-Assad leadership. Some countries are still sticking to this goal despite an estimated 250,000 people being killed in the war over past five years.

These foreign forces will inevitably influence the peace talks if such a goal is not abandoned. If so, progress in the talks, if any, is likely to be slow and bumpy. If this is the case, Syrians will continue to suffer and European countries will continuously bear the brunt of the flow of refugees.

This is a vicious cycle. If the cycle continues, no matter how much resources are mobilized on Thursday, they will be meaningless.

Now, as the two parties of Syria are engaging in talks, there is the initial momentum to secure peace. All the parties should insert their positive energy, instead of tearing the process apart.

In this regard, Beijing has set an example. Before the Geneva talks, China had already invited Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem and Syrian National Coalition President Khaled Khoja, the leader of the Syrian National Coalition, a key opposition group in Syria, to Beijing and they committed to beginning talks without any preconditions.

Beijing has stated clearly that the dialogue process should be free of foreign influence, though it should be put under the brokerage of the United Nations. And the peace-building process and Syria's leadership should be decided by Syrians. Beijing will continuously seek to find amicable settlements, instead of helping one side fighting against the other. Foreign Minister Wang Yi is scheduled to attend London conference on Thursday and China's stance will be emphasized again.

Now, it is high time for the international community to abide by these principles, eliminate any influence which could escalate the war in Syria, and let the Syrian people decide their own future.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily European Edition.

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