A NATION IN CIVIL WAR
The current civil war in Syria does not look like it will end anytime soon, but everyone agrees a political solution is required.
The UN Security Council has called for the implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communiqué, which envisages a transitional governing body "formed on the basis of mutual consent".
Nine rounds of UN-mediated peace talks - known as the Geneva II process - failed to make progress, with President Assad apparently unwilling to negotiate with political opposition groups that insist he must step down as part of any settlement.
Russia, Iran and Turkey set up parallel political talks known as the Astana process in 2017. An agreement was reached the following year to form a 150-member committee to write a new constitution, leading to free and fair elections supervised by the UN. But in January 2021, UN special envoy Geir Pedersen lamented that they had not even begun drafting any reforms.
Mr Pedersen also noted that, with five foreign armies active in Syria, the international community could not pretend the solutions to the conflict were only in the hands of the Syrians.
The government has regained control of Syria's biggest cities, but large parts of the country are still held by rebels, jihadists and the Kurdish-led SDF. The last remaining opposition stronghold is in the north-western province of Idlib and adjoining parts of northern Hama and western Aleppo provinces.
The region is dominated by a jihadist alliance called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), but is also home to mainstream rebel factions. An estimated 2.7 million displaced people, including a million children, are living there, many of them in dire conditions in camps.
In March 2020, Russia and Turkey brokered a ceasefire to halt a push by the government to retake Idlib. There has been a relative calm since then, but it could break down at any moment.
In the country's north-east, Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels launched an offensive against the SDF in October 2019 to create a "safe zone" clear of Kurdish YPG militia along the Syrian side of the border, and have occupied a 120km (75 miles) long stretch since.
To halt the assault the SDF struck a deal with the Syrian government that saw the Syrian army return to the Kurdish-administered region for the first time in seven years. The government has vowed to eventually regain full control of it.
EDU statement on the current crisis
"The situation in Syria remains heart-breaking and dire. Due to current extreme and elevated risks, EDU cannot in good conscience, put volunteers on the ground. Therefore, until the security situation improves, EDU assistance to Syria will be limited to lobbying for Refugees in neighbouring countries. Outside of Syrian borders, water and food packages for refugees making the perilous journey to Europe will continue although the COVID pandemic has also had a negative impact on volunteers for such projects".
EDU Secretary General. H.E. Irving Levance