Conditions have improved in Syria, but challenges still lie ahead on the path to peace By Gong Zheng
Since March 2011, the prolonged war in Syria has become a nightmare haunting its people and delivering each of them the bitter taste of terror. As the Syrian conflict enters its seventh year, some positive changes have occurred. Will the Syrian people seize the sliver of hope for peace?
“The liberation of Aleppo and Palmyra, the lifting of the siege of Deir al-Zour and the eradication of terrorism from many parts of Syria prove that victory is now within reach,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on September 23 in his speech at the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City.
Significant progress has been made in anti-terror efforts in Syria recently. The battle for the so-called Islamic State (IS) militant group’s de facto capital in the country, Raqqa, has reached its final stages after four months of fighting led by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab militias. According to an SDF statement on September 20, 80 percent of the city had been liberated, and they would continue to clear mines and fight the remaining terrorists.
In east Syria’s Deir al-Zour, government forces have broken the three-year siege by IS on government-held parts of the city and started an offensive to liberate the rest of the city, which is a great step toward the complete victory of removing IS forces from Syria.
As for the Syrian civil war, parties involved have mostly implemented a temporary ceasefire in the de-escalation zones. During the peace talks on Syria in Kazakhstan capital Astana in May, Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to set up three de-escalation zones in the opposition-controlled provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo, with Russia, Turkey and Iran acting as guarantors, to decrease the intensity of conflict and