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  War in Syria

  51 Debates

Protests against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad have gained momentum in recent days. The devaluation of the currency and the scrapping of subsidies for fuel are exacerbating resentment among the population - and not only in the opposition's traditional strongholds. In the southern city of Suweida, for example, the local news station has reported protests with hundreds of people such as haven't been seen since 2011.

The Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany, has sentenced Anwar R. to life in prison for crimes against humanity in the world's first criminal trial on state-led torture in Syria. The former director of operations at a Syrian secret service prison is alleged to have been responsible for the systematic torture of at least 4,000 people. Europe's press welcomes the verdict, but sees a need for further action.

What began as demonstrations for reforms in 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring has ended in disaster: according to activists, at least 388,000 Syrians have died, tens of thousands have been imprisoned or disappeared and millions have fled the country since the start of the civil war. The media point the finger at external players in the conflict.

A court in the German city of Koblenz on Wednesday handed down the verdict in the world's first trial on murder and torture by the Syrian state. The defendant, a former Syrian secret service agent, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for delivering anti-regime demonstrators to a detention centre where he knew they would face torture in 2011. He came to Germany as a refugee, where he was recognised by a torture victim.

After considerable wrangling, the UN Security Council has approved an extension of cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria. A 2014 resolution which also allowed aid to be delivered to areas not controlled by the government expired on Saturday. However, due to opposition from Russia and China, who abstained in the last vote and had vetoed all previous proposals, aid can only be brought into the country via a single access point.

A trial against two former employees of Assad's secret service has begun in Koblenz on Thursday. This is the first time representatives of the Syrian regime have been put on trial for torture. Anwar R., one of the accused, is also charged with committing at least 58 murders. Despite its limited scope the German-language press sees the trial as an important signal.

After Russia's President Putin and his Turkish counterpart Erdoğan agreed a ceasefire for the Syrian province of Idlib, which has been the scene of intense fighting for months, the conflict has practically disappeared from the European public's eye - not least because of the corona crisis.

Erdoğan is due to meet Putin in Moscow today in a bid to find a solution to the Syria conflict. The Turkish president wants to secure a ceasefire in Idlib, where Turkey and Russia are on the brink of direct confrontation, with more than a million people trying to flee the region. Journalists see Erdoğan in a weakened position as he travels to Moscow.

The situation in the Syrian province of Idlib continues to escalate. Dozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed over the last few days. Turkey has reacted with counterstrikes and shot down a Syrian fighter jet - further fuelling tensions with Russia, which supports Assad. Journalists are having difficulty making out which side has the upper hand.

A missile from the Syrian civil war that was presumably misdirected landed around 20 kilometres from the Cypriot capital Nikosia on Sunday night, setting fire to a hill in occupied Northern Cyprus. No one was hurt. Are Syria's neighbours aware of how close this war is?

With the support of the US, Kurdish-Arab units are leading an operation to take the last stronghold held by the IS. Around 600 IS fighters are estimated to have withdrawn to the area surrounding the village of Baghuz in eastern Syria, where some of them are putting up fierce resistance. Will the terrorist group soon be a thing of the past?

The differences separating Turkey and the US on Syria became clear on Tuesday with US National Security Advisor Bolton's trip to Ankara. The US has postponed its announced troop withdrawal and Bolten demanded security guarantees for the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG, which Ankara is combatting as a terrorist organisation. Commentators reflect on Washington's goals in Syria.

Leading politicians at home and abroad have lambasted Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. There are currently around 2,000 US soldiers stationed in the war-torn country. Although it now seems likely that the withdrawal will be postponed, commentators observe a strengthening of radical Islamist forces and expect another shift in the balance of power in Syria.

Turkish President Erdoğan has announced a new offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. Ankara combats the presence of the YPG on the Turkish border because the militia is closely allied with the PKK. The Kurds in Syria receive military support and weapons from the US because they are fighting the IS militia, however. For that reason Washington's reaction will be decisive, Turkish media believe.

Erdoğan, Macron, Merkel and Putin have agreed at their summit meeting on Syria in Istanbul on the key points of a political process in the war-torn country. A constitutional committee is to be up and running in Geneva by the end of the year. What are the chances of finding a solution in this format?

Now that the offensive against the last Syrian rebel stronghold in Idlib has been fended off for now, the question arises of what the post-war order could look like. A group of international jurists warned on Tuesday in an appeal to UN Secretary General Guterres that human rights could be disregarded in the reconstruction phase. The West must not once again turn a blind eye, commentators admonish.

Damascus and Moscow have begun attacks on the last major rebel stronghold in Syria. The offensive in Idlib could not only lead to heavy fighting in the area but also - in the event of poison gas attacks - to a military confrontation between Russia and the Nato states. Can an escalation be avoided?

They made a name for themselves by rescuing civilians from war zones in Syria, but now they are in danger: 422 members of the Syrian aid organisation White Helmets and their families have been rescued from the combat area in the south of Syria - by the Israeli army. The press reacts positively to the spectacular rescue of the rescuers.

The US has hailed the airstrikes it carried out in Syria together with Britain and France as a success, claiming that they have considerably reduced the Assad regime's ability to produce chemical weapons. Journalists speculate on what comes next - with Iran in particular in mind.

The US, France and Britain hope to decide on a joint reaction to the presumed chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime in eastern Ghouta within the next few days. Russia has said rebels staged the attack in which according to the aid organisation White Helmets 42 people were killed. Commentators discuss the credibility of the West's threats and Assad's future.

At their summit in Ankara the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran have resolved to quickly establish peace in Syria. However, their different interests were also manifest at the meeting. Commentators criticise Europe's lack of involvement and explain why Russian and Iran have won the war twice over.

US President Donald Trump has announced plans to withdraw US troops from Syria and cancel aid that had already been pledged for the country's reconstruction. A withdrawal would have a negative impact on the balance of power in the region, some commentators stress. Others see the step as tantamount to capitulation.

A Russian-backed ceasefire will apply today and for the next few days from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time in East Ghouta. It is aimed at facilitating aid deliveries and establishing a corridor to allow civilians to exit the area. In Afrin in northern Syria the fighting continues. Media see little chance of establishing a longer ceasefire as foreseen in last Saturday's UN resolution.

Roughly two months after the start of their military operations Turkish troops and allied rebels have captured the northern Syrian city of Afrin. The Kurdish YPG militia have retreated and tens of thousands have fled the city. Turkey has announced that it will now begin reconstruction work. Commentators shed light on Turkey's plans - and interests.

As a direct conflict between Turkey and the Assad regime looms in the Kurdish province of Afrin in northern Syria, 400,000 people are trapped in the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. The Syrian army has been bombing the area for days. Now the UN Security Council plans to convene to discuss the situation. Journalists describe the plight of the population, at the mercy of the warring parties.

An unspecified number of Russian mercenaries fighting in units loyal to President Assad are said to have been killed by US airstrikes in the governorate of Deir ez-Zor last week. The incident marks the first fatalities in direct confrontations between US and Russian forces in Syria. Russian media seize the opportunity to examine the Russian mercenary army system.

Turkey's President Erdoğan announced on Saturday that "Operation Olive Branch" will be extended southwards to Idlib province. The Turkish army has been fighting the Kurdish militia in the northern Syrian province of Afrin for a week now. Commentators take a look at the offensive's motives and chances of success.

Turkey has gathered its troops on its border with Syria. It plans to launch an offensive against the Kurdish-held enclave in Afrin, where the US supports a Kurdish-led "border security force". Commentators disagree as to whether this means a direct confrontation between Nato allies the US and Turkey is unavoidable.

The seventh round of negotiations on the Syria conflict began in Geneva on Monday. The fact that the ceasefire in the south of the country worked out by the US and Russia on the weekend has held for the most part could have a positive impact on the talks. Many commentators remain sceptical, however.

US Secretary of State Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Lavrov agreed in Moscow on Wednesday that both states must seek better relations. However, they failed to reach a consensus on the key topic of Syria. Moscow blocked a UN resolution with its veto on Wednesday night. Commentators discuss to what extent the two powers can reach an agreement on the Syria question.

The UN Security Council plans to vote again on a resolution calling for an investigation into the poison gas attack allegedly carried out by Syrian government troops. A draft of the resolution failed to secure unanimous support last week due to Russia's abstention. Commentators disagree about how the West should deal with Moscow.

The conflicting parties have been engaged in another round of talks in Geneva aimed at ending the Syrian war since Thursday. UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura had separate meetings with the delegations of the Assad regime and the opposition. The future of Assad continues to be the main bone of contention. Commentators are not very optimistic and appeal to Moscow to use its influence to negotiate an agreement.

The Syrian regime had up to 13,000 people executed in Sadnaya prison between 2011 and 2015, according to a new report put out by human rights organisation Amnesty International. Commentators demand that Assad and all those responsible for the executions be held to account.

The two-day Syria peace talks in Astana ended without a major breakthrough. Russia, Turkey and Iran will try to strengthen the fragile ceasefire, it says in the final declaration. The talks are to be resumed at the start of February in Geneva. Commentators explain which basic conditions they consider necessary to find a solution to the Syrian conflict.

The UN Security Council has passed a unanimous resolution to send observers to Aleppo. They are to oversee the evacuation that was resumed on Monday. The veto powers won't be able to save face wit this action, journalists criticise, and explain certain motives behind the evacuation plans.

The Syrian regime has driven back the rebels in eastern Aleppo with the help of Russian fighter jets and tens of thousands of people are fleeing the areas under attack. A victory for the government forces in the northern Syrian city could mark a turning point in the civil war. Aleppo's recapture will bolster terrorist groups, commentators predict, concluding that US President Obama is partly to blame for the course the war has taken.

The EU foreign ministers have decided not to impose further sanctions against Moscow for the time being. At a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday they did, however, harshly condemn the Russian airstrikes in Aleppo. And last week Putin cancelled a visit to Paris after Hollande described Moscow's actions in Syria as war crimes. The press is also divided about the right strategy to adopt vis-à-vis Russia.

Incessant bombing, destroyed hospitals, no water or food: the situation in Aleppo is becoming increasingly desperate. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has warned that the rebel-held eastern part of the city could be completely destroyed by the end of the year. Putin's plan is ruthless, commentators write, and ask why no one is standing up to Moscow.

The US has pinned the blame for the attack on a UN aid convoy on Russia, while the government in Moscow rejects the accusation. Roughly 20 people were killed in the attack on Monday. The timing of the attack was deliberate, commentators believe, and blame US President Obama for the fact that Assad and his allies have dared to do such a thing in the first place.

The ceasefire that has been in force in Syria for just under a week threatens to break down. According to observers, fighting in Aleppo has flared up once again. Dozens of soldiers were killed on Saturday in an airstrike which the US has admitted unintentionally hit Syrian government troops, while hundreds of thousands of civilians remain in need of assistance. Commentators doubt whether Moscow and Washington will be able to keep the warring parties in check.

Turkish troops are still concentrating their efforts on the border region in the Syrian operation. According to President Erdoğan their objective is to fight the terrorists near the city of Al-Bab. But according to commentators the offensive also targets Kurdish militias.

A report published by Amnesty International documents how thousands of prisoners have been subjected to dreadful abuse and tortured to death in the prisons of the Syrian regime since the start of the civil war. The report is a stark appeal to the international community's conscience, commentators say, but doubt that it will lead to a change of approach.

The media continue to report on military victories against the IS in Syria and Iraq. But simply stopping the organisation's advance in the Middle East won't banish the threat of terror, observers warn.

There is still no sign of an agreement being reached at the Syria peace talks in Geneva. The UN proposal for a transitional government with Assad as head of state was rejected by the opposition on the weekend. Is there still hope of a positive outcome?

Hopes for a ceasefire in Syria have receded into the distance despite the attempts at dialogue in Munich. Hospitals and schools have been bombed in Aleppo and Idlib. Russia and the US are blaming each other for the attacks. Commentators voice growing concern about world peace.

Having fled the conflict area around Aleppo, tens of thousands of people are still stranded on the border between Syria and Turkey. Turkey is providing them with food and tents but is not letting them enter its territory. Who is responsible for the dreadful situation on the border?

The fighting that has gone on for almost five years in Syria is to come to an end within a week. The foreign ministers of the contact group on Syria agreed the deal as well as humanitarian aid and the resumption of the Geneva talks at their meeting in Munich. Is there a chance of peace in the war-torn country?

A first aid convoy reached the town of Madaya which has been under siege by Syrian government troops for six months on Monday. The siege has left around 40,000 residents suffering from starvation. Is the aid just a drop in the ocean?

A new round of international talks on a solution to the Syria crisis starts today in Vienna. For the first time Iran - alongside Russia, the most important supporter of the Assad regime - will be at the table. In view of the conflicting interests of the different players a quick agreement won't be on the cards, some commentators predict. Others argue that the war in Syria can only be ended by deploying ground troops.