Belfast Telegraph

A Syrian truce will allow world to concentrate on beating Isis

By Lord Rana

The tragic terrorist incidents in Paris have truly shocked the world with the horror of how some presumably educated people brought up in Western Europe can be brainwashed to commit such acts of inhumanity, causing death and suffering to so many innocent people. It is a terrible reflection on our present-day world.

Having lived in here throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, when all-too-frequently deeds of a similar nature were inflicted by people who otherwise shared much in terms of their culture and basic religion, we in Northern Ireland have moved on. There are lessons from the Northern Ireland experience and reasons to conclude that there has been considerable success resolving problems as a result of all sides coming forward in a spirit of compromise and renunciating the use of force.

What has been happening in the Middle East - in Iraq, in Libya and now in Syria - prompts concern for longer-term, horrendous repercussions.

Without rehearsing past rights and wrongs, but concentrating now on the immediate situation, we must recognise the plight of hundreds of thousands of people - including children - who have become homeless and ended up in camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other places.

There are many thousands of refugees still trying to escape the violence inflicted from various quarters. Yet the infiltration of bands of particularly evil-minded people to do their dirty deeds in Europe (such as what happened in Paris) has become an inevitability.

We don't know how many individuals bent on further terrorist acts are now in place in Western European countries.

There is currently some dialogue taking place, such as President Obama talking to President Putin at the end of the G20 conference, Secretary of State Kerry talking to his Russian counterpart and EU leaders.

But the question remains: what, if any, solution can emerge? The signs are not promising for a practical consensus and plan of action.

A comprehensive solution to the refugee problem will require a co-ordinated effort and a tempering of earlier positions. The major powers who currently support one faction or the other need to reach a common consensus.

Accordingly, this must involve some sort of understanding in relation to the Asaad regime (at least on a transitional basis) to ensure some stability for common action in the area.

A compromise approved by the Russians, USA, Iran, Turkey and other nations can be achieved which would, in due course, encourage people from Syria and Iraq to return to their homes. It will require the defeat of Isis.

There needs as well to be financial contribution by all major powers to rebuild the war-torn economies of Syria and Iraq. The isolation of Isis from the rest of the combatants should be the goal of all.

All this will require telling pressure being brought on the Assad regime to establish a ceasefire so as to allow concentration on Isis.

Simply to demand that Asaad go from office now is unrealistic; the longer term outcome is another matter. Such a course of action would also help win a UN resolution authorising military action.

While this scenario may seem problematic, it should be borne in mind that the situation in Syria (and parts of Iraq) is so dreadful that the consequence of failure to reach consensus is unthinkable.

  • Lord (Diljit) Rana is chairman and chief executive of Andras House Group, Northern Ireland's biggest hotels and hospitality organisation. He was appointed to the House of Lords in 2004 by then-prime minister Tony Blair in recognition of his work in Belfast city centre's regeneration and his efforts to encourage political dialogue

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