Following the failure of the Geneva Conference, the only feasible way forward in Syria is the gradual demilitarization of the conflict.
Much is at stake. Some 140,000 have already died. According to UN estimates some 9 million people have been uprootedas a result of the conflict - close to half are children. The total number of displaced people inlcudes 6.5 million internally displaced persons within Syria. Some 2.5 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries which cannot indefinitely support them. Lebanon and Iraq are likely to be further destabilised.
Unless the fighting in Sria eases the entire Middle East risks being engulfed, and jihadists from other countries, many of them from North America, Europe and Australia currently fihgting in Syria will sooner or later return to their home countries deeply embittered and prone to further extremist actions.
The great powers, notably the United States, Britain and France as well as Saudi Arabia, have much to answer for. Their meddling and support for various rebel groups must stop. The authoritarian Assad regime bears much responsibility for the current mess, but at least Syria was until recently a relatively peaceful state which respected the rights of all religious groups. Russia too, which has been calling for a peaceful solution, must rethink its arms sales to the Assad government.
A ceasefire is urgently needed, as a first step towards a long term solution based on the principle of a united, secular Syria free of outside interference. The people of Syria should be allowed to determine their own future in a transparent democratic transition, to be stregthened through UN supervision of the ceasefire and the deployment of a peacekeeping force in which the contributing countries have no prior record of alignment with one or other of the conflicting parties.