The past 33 months comprise the darkest chapter in Syria’s long history. Since protests in March 2010 turned into an armed conflict against the government of President Bashar Al Assad, Syria has been ripped apart by political and sectarian violence, its infrastructure ruined, its provincial cities razed and its people turned into the flux of an internally and externally displaced diaspora.
And throughout, the violence has never stopped, the killings have never ceased, the maiming has never waned and the hatred has grown unabated, fuelling enough souls to last for future generations — if and when this once-proud Arab nation finds a way out of the circle of death and the abyss of despair.
But at least now, after months of killings and stalemate, there is at least the faintest hope that there may be a way out of this deepest hole of hatred. Both Ankara and Tehran are floating the idea of a ceasefire between all parties. Yes, such a stoppage in violence had been offered before by both the Arab League and the United Nations for Eid. And yes, those offerings came to nought, riddled by bullets and shredded by bombs from all sides.
But this time around — given Iran’s new-found influence and acceptance once again on the international stage — there is a chance that the guns may fall silent.
Ankara too, long wary and weary of the conflict across its borders, is yearning for a cessation. And on the rebel side, there is also an acknowledgement that Geneva II is worthy of a chance — an opportunity at least to take stock of the long and bloody campaign, and of the ground lost to a re-organised and determined regular army, those ranks supplemented by Hezbollah fighters.
On the ground, this war of bloody attrition is poised to grind on indefinitely. At the negotiating table, there is at least a chance to offer respite to the millions of refugees who seek safe harbour and help wherever they can. And it is for these hapless souls that all sides need to sit and talk in Geneva — while all the guns are silent.